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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  • StudioBrooklyn

    Assuming this also takes Chapin out of commission, the kids still have the PS8 playground (most of the time), Cadman, Adam Yauch, and the various playgrounds in BBP. Pierrepont is definitely a vital hub (and has been our mainstay for the last 5.75 years) and I’m interested to see whether we’re driven out first by noise or closure.

  • Jorale-man

    Think about your average six-lane highway too. They’d have to build large walls to keep people from walking on it, and block the noise, which would presumably back up against the houses along Columbia Heights. The more I think about it, this is really straight out of the Robert Moses playbook.

  • Banet

    With all the empty, underused space at Cadman Plaza I’m amazed a proper playground hasn’t been built there. Maybe it will now.

  • Banet

    The houses along Columbia Heights at least have yards. What about the apartment buildings at Grace Court? And the big apartment building at the foot of Clark? It can’t *possibly* be legal to have s 6 lane interstate that close to residences. It would render them uninhabitable.

  • Banet

    In one of the articles I read — I think it was Politico — they said that they would have to cut down all of the trees along the Promenade. No reason was given. I assume because it’s not safe or legal to have large trees blooming over an interstate where they could fall into traffic at any time.

    So this project will not only deprive us of the Promenade for at least six years, and render portions our neighborhood all but uninhabitable due to noise and pollution, but it will take another 30 or 40 years for the flora to recover.

    This is one of the dumbest plans I’ve ever heard.

  • Arch Stanton

    Simply not true. I 95 goes directly under an apartment building at the George Washington Bridge.

  • Jorale-man

    I assume there would be traffic lanes where the grand old trees now stand. Or maybe a shoulder, or an off-ramp onto Columbia Heights. I imagine they’ll have renderings at the public event on the 27th…

  • Arch Stanton

    Well now we know why they were drilling those core samples along the Promenade…

  • Banet

    I suspect the laws regarding proximity have changed since the construction of I-95 under that apartment building.

  • A Neighbor

    Let’s not forget about the less preposterous solution of diverting traffic. Traffic could exit at Atlantic and take Adams Street to the bridge or to reconnect with the BQE. No exit before Adams. Yeah, intense traffic on Atlantic until Adams and cars couldn’t cross there. Inconvenient solution – cross after Adams. Alternative for pedestrians (and cheaper than a 6-lane highway) build an overhead walkway or tunnel. Kicker for all, tolls on the bridges to reduce all the LI commuters.

  • Andrew Porter

    Here is a photo of the cantilever during construction. No, I don’t have permission to post this. Look at it quick before it gets taken down:

  • Andrew Porter
  • Andrew Porter

    If the tolls were dropped on the Verrazano Bridge, thousands of trucks would go west over that to NJ, instead of diverting via the BQE and Manhattan Bridge, enormously cutting the traffic on the BQE.

    Also,a tunnel under the Heights was proposed years ago, eliminating the need for the BQE fix in the first place. It was shot down. From Allen Swerdlowe’s website:


    “The Downtown Brooklyn Tunnel was conceived of as an alternative to rebuilding the Brooklyn-Queens-Expressway in place as a project funding by Pratt Institute in the 1990’s…

    “The Tunnel project came from studies of both European and Asian cities and how they were eliminating vehicular infrastructure from its residential and waterfront districts.

    “The New York State DOT has not taken the lead in developing this project. Allen Swerdlowe serves as a consultant on its advisory committee.”

    Swerdlowe used to live here, and is my cousin.

  • Andrew Porter

    The Bridge, I-95, and its approaches came first; the apartment buildings came later.

  • Andrew Porter

    There are already other plans for that space: remember the Brooklyn Greenway?

  • Andrew Porter

    Those trees are already well past their expected lifetime, and several have already been cut down. All the plantings will likely go away anyway during the reconstruction.

  • Arch Stanton

    Yes, the point being, I doubt there are any laws prohibiting the proximity of the highway to the buildings.

  • Arch Stanton
  • BrooklynHeightzer

    I say they retrofit the Squibb Bridge aka wobbly bridge to redirect the traffic.

  • gc

    The other point being, the I-95 building owners made a conscious decision to build over the highway. Building owners in the Heights are having the highway forced on them.

  • Sweeties

    From a purely topographical perspective, that looks ideal. I suspect the civil engineering challenges would be considerable.

  • Arch Stanton

    I think the engineering is doable, cost was the reason the plan was initially rejected. Perhaps its time to take another look at it.

  • Arch Stanton

    The point being, if putting the temporary highway there isn’t violating any laws/codes, the building owners don’t have much of a chance of stopping it.

  • gc

    Seventy years ago some of the residents of Brooklyn Heights took on Robert Moses. I would guess that he wasn’t violating any laws/codes but they still prevailed and saved the neighborhood.

  • Arch Stanton

    Correct, and now the very solution that saved the neighborhood is in need of repairs.This isn’t a case of “saving the neighborhood” it is only a temporary inconvenience, we were saved by the cantilever we now may have to endure a little payback.
    There are realistically two viable options, build a temporary highway or build a permanent tunnel. The latter would be great but to get it funded???

  • gc

    My definition of “temporary inconvenience” does not extend to what will probably be a decade. I don’t know about you,but for some of us that may well be a lifetime.

  • Jorale-man

    Highway tunnels are quite common under many European and Asian cities. The difference here is, many Americans don’t want to pay for infrastructure. So we’re a semi-third-world country when it comes to highways, rails, mass transit, etc.

  • Local_Montague_Man

    I just cannot believe this. Putting apartment on the market. Going to be a disaster.

  • DMB

    Ok, it’s now war.

    This is a zero sum game now. We lose and a non NYC tax payer wins.

    People better start bucking up the money for the battery park tunnel – because I propose that we shut down the BQE from the trench to the Brooklyn bridge entirely.

    I don’t care about traffic. I don’t care about some stupid commuter trying to save money by using OUR Brooklyn bridge for free – while we pay for it’s upkeep.

    It’s war and we are going to win this- the walkable tax base around the promenade should start the movement to crush this- i for one am going to initiated – see everyone on Thursday’s hearing.

  • KXrVrii1

    Some of the best pics you’ve ever posted, thanks.