Brooklyn Heights

Survey results: Redesign BQE to save Promenade, cover and reduce lanes, focus on climate and health

Community calls for a ‘corridor-wide solution’

June 12, 2023 Mary Frost
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BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — A survey of almost 500 Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Vinegar Hill and Fulton Ferry Landing residents, conducted by the Brooklyn Heights Association, found that a large majority of respondents believe the city should redesign the crumbling Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) for the “future of transportation and mobility, not the past,” BHA said on Monday.

Respondents’ top three priorities were: preserving the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and its special scenic view plane; burying or covering the highway; and improving air quality all along the BQE corridor.

Fully 70% agree the highway should not be widened to accommodate three lanes of traffic in each direction; and two-thirds (67%) believe the city should heed the advice of the BQE Expert Panel to carry out urgent short-term repairs immediately, buying time for a long-term, visionary transformation of the entire BQE corridor.

More information is needed about all aspects of NYC Department of Transportation’s plans — including timeline and costs; impact on neighborhood streets and parks, especially Brooklyn Bridge Park; and the impact on the Promenade, survey-takers said.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

BHA, joined by its partners in the Coalition for the BQE Transformation (BQET), which represent 12 area neighborhoods and community organizations, has been pushing for a better BQE for years. BHA said it wants to see a “21st-century reimagining of the entire BQE corridor that benefits all of the adjacent communities, not just the neighborhoods next to the crumbling and decrepit Triple Cantilever section.”

The BQE. Eagle file photo by Paul Frangipane

The Triple Cantilever, which underlies the Promenade (a section called “BQE Central” by the city), is the first section of the interstate slated to be reconstructed due to its dilapidated condition. 

DOT’s Chief Strategy Officer Julie Bero said in March that NYC DOT has “heard the voices” of residents and officials on the need for two lanes, and is “working with our partners at the state and local level” to study the feasibility of that solution. 

The Adams administration, however, appears to be pushing to rebuild the same polluting six-lane superhighway that was built 70 years ago in communities along the Brooklyn waterfront.

A summary of the results of the survey can be found on the BHA’s website. 

Survey respondents’ top three priorities were: preserving the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and its special scenic view plane; burying or covering the highway; and improving air quality all along the BQE corridor. Graphic courtesy BHA

BHA summary of key survey takeaways:

  1. Respondents want a smaller roadway that maximizes capping and covering, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions and noise pollution while improving air quality.
  2. A significant majority (67%) support making only the immediate repairs needed for safety reasons and taking the time necessary to plan and implement a holistic vision for the entire corridor.
  3. More than 70% believe the highway should not be widened to restore six lanes of traffic.
  4. Preserving the historic Brooklyn Heights Promenade is a top three priority for 66% of respondents, along with creating a new connection from the Promenade to the waterfront (67% in favor.)
  5. 60% support closing specific on and off ramps to the BQE at Atlantic Avenue and/or Vine Street among others, in order to improve safety for pedestrians and vehicles and reduce traffic on the cantilever and local streets.


Two-thirds (67%) of survey respondents believe the city should carry out urgent repairs immediately, buying time to develop a modern plan for the entire BQE corridor. Graphic courtesy BHA

Protect Promenade and Brooklyn Bridge Park

Lara Birnback, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, said the survey confirms that the BHA and the coalition remain in sync with area residents. 

“Safety remains of paramount concern — the city must work expeditiously to make the necessary life-extending repairs to the Triple Cantilever. At the same time, we continue our call for a corridor-wide plan that reverses the environmental and public health hazards associated with urban expressways,” Birnback said in a statement. “Now is the time to engage in a vigorous conversation about the future of the entire corridor that focuses on environmental justice and transportation alternatives to cars and trucks.”

She added that any plan “must respect our neighborhood’s most beloved treasures, the historic Brooklyn Heights Promenade and Brooklyn Bridge Park, both of which are enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and visitors every year.”

Survey respondents said they need “much more detailed information” about the construction impacts, cost and timeline for this project, Birnback said. 

More than 61% of respondents said they had not participated in NYC DOT-led workshops held throughout the fall of 2022 and early spring of 2023, making the survey an important contribution to the discussion, Birnback said.

Lara Birnback, president of the Brooklyn Heights Association. Eagle file photo by Mary Frost

Officials: Survey confirms need for transformative BQE plan

“It is clear that we must have a plan in place that meets our climate goals, reduces traffic flow through neighboring streets and takes the time to create a transformative plan. I hope the city will include BHA’s survey results in their research,” U.S. Rep. Dan Goldman said.

“There is no doubt that the BQE corridor needs a radical, transformative new design that centers the input and voices from the communities most affected,” said NY State Senator Andrew Gounardes, adding that the survey would give a voice to those residents who have previously not been heard from.

“These survey results reflect what we have been hearing from the community for years: Brooklynites want a smaller, safer, and environmentally sustainable BQE plan that will reduce greenhouse gasses and improve pedestrian safety,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. 

She added, “While the city makes critical safety repairs to the Triple Cantilever, we must redesign the entire BQE corridor to ensure the health and safety of those communities impacted throughout Brooklyn. It’s also clear that the Brooklyn Heights community wants modern and transformative change such as tunneling or capping, and this is possible with major initiatives within reach such as congestion pricing, overweight truck enforcement, and the city’s ambitious freight plan.” 

“Community members have spoken and they want holistic, climate-oriented solutions for the BQE that improve air quality in our community, maximally cap the highway structure to limit negative impacts, and maintain no more than two lanes of traffic in each direction. This is what we’ve been pushing for since day one, and we’re committed to continuing to work with the Brooklyn Heights Association and our community to make it happen,” said NYC Councilmember Lincoln Restler.

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