BQE Rehab: Promenading No More?

New buildings, endless construction, and the opening of Brooklyn Bridge Park have led many Brooklyn Heights residents to wring their hands and gnash their teeth about “progress” in the neighborhood.

They ain’t seen nothing yet.

Scrolling through my Twitter timeline yesterday, I came across this horrifying news:

The city may have to shutter the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for 6 years during construction of the BQE, according to @NYC_DOT project manager Tanvi Pandya.

— Julianne Cuba (@Julcuba) September 20, 2018

Say it ain’t so, Julianne.

But she does, in her story for Brooklyn Paper

As city transit officials continue planning for the wildly disruptive and long overdue repairs on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, they informed reporters yesterday that a “temporary elevated” roadway, level with the Promenade, may be constructed so that work can be done on the expressway underneath.

To make way for the cars, workers would also have to lay down enough blacktop to make a six-lane roadway — something that could take a year and a half to pull off, thus closing the park to the public well before cars make it their home.

Traffic would then shift from the current roadway to the temporary one while workers build the new tiered, cantilever structure, before bringing it back down to the rehabbed BQE, according to [DOT engineer Tavi] Pandya.

The plan would close the Promenade for up to six years.

Other options include diverting traffic through the neighborhood or rehabbing the BQE lane-by-lane, extending the project’s completion date to 2029.

Politico‘s story asserts that diverting traffic into the neighborhood could result in 12,000 more cars on local roads every day, something that BHA’s Peter Bray seems to consider a non-starter.

“I think putting tens of thousands, in excess of 100,000 vehicles, in local streets in Brooklyn is simply not a feasible alternative,” Peter Bray, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, told The Post.

“We need emergency responders to have access to our community. We need to keep our businesses functioning . . . this is a very difficult trade-off that the community is going to have to make in some fashion.”

The Post also includes commentary from an unnamed local:

“It would be a huge detriment to the neighborhood and it would devalue all of our property,” huffed one woman who lives at Columbia Heights and Pineapple Street but refused to give her name.

Construction is slated to begin in 2020 or 2021.

Have an opinion? The DOT is holding a public project update meeting on Thursday, September 27 at the National Grid Auditorium at 1 MetroTech Center, second floor. Doors open at 5:30 pm; a presentation and Q&A is scheduled from 6:30 – 8:30.


Cuba’s Brooklyn Paper story is, as usual, rich with puns and information; Politico and the Post also offer details about the plans. Click to support local reporting!




Photo: Teresa Genaro

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  • A Neighbor

    This sounds ludicrous.
    And explains why NYC public construction projects (viz, 2d Ave subway) are the most expensive in the world.

    Why can’t they use Furman St when they close off a roadway of the BQE? When the southbound roadway is closed for repairs, Furman goes south. When the northbound roadway is closed, it goes north.

  • Banet

    I can’t conceive how this is even technically possible. They intend to route six lanes of traffic, including thousands upon thousands of 18 wheelers, on a temporary roadway suspended 60 feet in the air that somehow allows them to completely rebuild both the cantilevers directly underneath it?

    They intend about these cars level with, and directly outside the windows of the apartment buildings at the foot of grace court and Remsen Street? So that every passing vehicle can peer directly into their living rooms?

    They intend to raise the traffic so high up that the brand new noise-attenuating berms and the $600 million park and become completely useless?

    How would they even Route the traffic as it approaches Squibb Park? Would it go OVER Columbia Heights?

    This is an insane plan that hasn’t really been thought through.

  • Jorale-man

    Completely insane, and a massive engineering feet. The alternative of diverting traffic along Hicks, Henry and Clinton sounds just as bad. They’re talking enormous amounts of noise and pollution.

    Why don’t they build a highway tunnel under Furman Street instead? I know there are subways running under there but it can’t be that much harder than building a temporary six-lane highway where the promenade stands.

  • no

    I hope on this one thing the neighborhood can be united. This must be stopped.

  • NeighboorHood

    Clearly the only possible solution is to dig up the berms in the park and add hundreds of units of Condominiums. The revenue from these in the form of PILOT payments would be used to fund the new temporary, elevated, floating, 6-lane, Promenade parallel, 18-wheel truck supporting, super roadway. A design competition should be funded immediately so that a select Board of Highly responsible well connected and totally disinterested parties could choose the most interesting, complicated, and expensive design for the new roadway. This plan has been brought to you by the Board of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation. Please visit our website to complete a detailed and thorough 5 question Community input questionnaire today!
    You may also contact us directly at one of our board member’s Condominiums conveniently located inside the park!

  • Greg

    Apparently they said a tunnel isn’t feasible because it can only accommodate two lanes instead of three.

    How about just making it two lanes then? Is there some regulatory requirement for three? I agree any talk of elevated highways sounds insane.

  • Banet

    Unfortunately, narrowing the highway from the current three lanes down to two lanes in each direction as it enters a tunnel would lead to multi-mile long back ups on a daily basis from the merging.

  • Banet

    I expect that no traffic will be allowed on Furman Street as they are rebuilding the lower cantilever that juts out directly over Furman Street. And I expect the need to keep the lower cantilever closed as they rebuilt the upper cantilever. And at some point they’re probably going to have to rebuild the structure that holds up the promenade itself. It’s truly a horrible situation no matter how they resolve it.

  • Love Laner

    Was just reading about this on Gothamist. I personally would prefer the 8 year plan where they work on the BQE lane by lane, without building a floating, temporary 6-lane highway that shuts down the promenade and brings noise/air pollution pouring into the neighborhood. Yes it’s 2 extra years, but at that point what’s the difference between 6 and 8 years? Maybe I’m missing something but that seems to be the vastly superior option.

  • HN

    One, the elevated highway plan is supposedly cheaper — we’ll see about that.

    Two, the segment by segment plan would bring even more traffic/pollution onto BHeights streets.

  • gc

    I’m guessing that what you are missing may involve special interests of one sort or another.
    It’s very hard for me to believe that this plan has reached this stage of acceptance without someone greasing the wheels.

  • HN

    What are the chances they run out of money (or some other excuse) after building the “temporary” elevated highway.

  • gc

    Can anyone provide a list of the politicians involved in this decision?

    We need to let them know our concerns in the strongest possible way!

  • gc

    This plan sounds both simple and effective.
    Certainly seems to be infinitely better than what is currently being proposed.

  • gc

    I’m trying to remember … but it seems to me that the lower cantilever comes up to, but does not actually come out over Furman St.

  • Banet

    I just checked on the street view mode of Google Maps. The lower cantilever extends out over an entire lane of Furman Street.

  • Banet

    I never liked the original plan but how does building a 6 lane interstate 60’ up in the air sound simple?

  • StudioBrooklyn I remember seeing diagrams like these during the park construction. Note the cross-section of the Promenade, BQE, and Furman Street.

  • gc

    The plan I was referring to as simple was the one proposed by A neighbor to use Furman St not the 6 lane interstate proposed by the DOT

  • Banet

    That diagram does a nice job of showing how the berms will be utterly useless in blocking highway noise during this entire mess.

  • Banet

    Got it. Apologies. Alas, Furman is only 2 lanes and if turned into a highway, would cut off pedestrian access to the waterfront at Fulton Landing.

  • TeddyNYC

    And what’s the alternative besides letting the structure crumble? The only other alternative I can think of would be four new tunnels (since we need three lanes in each direction and each tunnel can only have two lanes). Two of those lanes could be HOV, one in each direction of travel. Of course, because of the cost of such a project, it’s unlikely that will ever see the light of day. I know it’s terrible medicine to take, especially if you live right next to it, but sometimes that’s the only option. Like most people living here, I would prefer the removal of that section of the BQE, replaced by the tunnels I just mentioned, but I don’t think Albany and DC likes the costs involved.

  • Banet

    I will say though, a 2 lane tunnel would likely be sufficient if they put tolls on the Brooklyn Bridge and other currently-free east river crossings. A good number of the cars that use this stretch of the BQE could take the Battery tunnel or public transit but instead use the BQE to get to free crossings. Charge to get into the city (or create congestion pricing) and we may see traffic drop to a level where 2 lane tunnels make sense.)

  • Brixtony

    Does this mean that the new pool will be a drive -through ?

  • Cranberry Beret

    No doubt there would be increased traffic in the Heights but my understanding is the bulk of the diverted traffic to “local streets” actually refers to vehicles going up/down 3rd and 4th Avenues. (Ie the through truck traffic between Staten Island & Queens that currently passes via the Gowanus Expressway going to/from the BQE portion in Williamsburg). There’s huge opposition to that potential from Sunset Park politicos.

  • PierrepontSkin

    Have you ever been on Furman during rush hour? I’ve gone down there thinking it was a good idea to get around traffic and ended up taking about an hour from one end to the other. Woof.

  • Eddyde

    One of the original proposals was to build a permanent bypass tunnel from Williamsburg to Sunset Park, then only local traffic would use the cantilevered section. Sadly it was abandoned due to cost.

  • Arch Stanton

    About as much of a chance as you developing an intelligent point of view.

  • KXrVrii1

    The article also says the extra time required for the lane by lane approach would push completion until “at least 2029 — three years past the believed end of life for the present highway, when experts warn it could start collapsing under the weight of the thousands of trucks that traverse it daily.”

    So those extra years could be very unpleasant if they had to fully shut down the uncompleted lanes.

  • Bob Grobe

    The playground at the foot of Pierrepont won’t mix well with an elevated roadway 10 feet away. The city needs to find an alternative space for the kids if it opts for the elevated roadway.