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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  • HN

    Oh. Look. A troll.

  • Jorale-man

    As others here have suggested, if traffic is diverted to a combination of the Brooklyn-Battery tunnel, 3rd and 4th avenues, a few other area surface streets (Furman, Flatbush) *and* bridge tolls and/or congestion pricing is implemented, thus reducing drivers into Manhattan, the fanciful elevated highway idea doesn’t have to be the go-to solution.

    Keep in mind too, they haven’t started the environmental impact study yet, and who knows that would yield.

  • MaryT

    There is something very 20th c. about this proposal. I can’t see that any of the old solutions will solve it. The most sensible approach given the current mindsets seems to be – cars and trucks go underground.

    What if it is looked at from a more future forward perspective? Quieter, cleaner, more efficient transit technologies. A broader conversation where Metrotech, CityTech and booming Brooklyn tech tanks could engage. A modern model approach could be a game changer.

  • Liz

    This elevated highway would cut right behind PS 8. So hundreds of neighborhood kids would breath in noxious highway fumes all day at school, for at least 6 years. What is the DOT proposing – no recess for the kids for 6 years? Give hundreds of local kids asthma to cut 3 years off the project? Are they out of their minds?

  • MaryT

    Hey – I see Disqus is shifting around the comments chronological order. Is this new?

  • Arch Stanton

    There is a pull down on the right, just above where the comments start, that allows you to choose the order, newest, oldest, or best.

  • Arch Stanton

    Do you have a diagram of the proposed route? Otherwise, I don’t see how you figure the highway would be any closer to PS8 than it already is.

  • Arch Stanton

    A holistic approach would be great but sadly, not realistic in our lifetime… For one thing it is an interstate highway, a critical part of the north east truck routes, thus much bigger than a local issue. For now, the tunnel is the best solution and even that will be an up hill battle to get funded.

  • South Brooklyn Boys

    Nice one.

  • Arch Stanton

    No, just an intelligent person who detests idiotic conspiracy theories. Oh, and if you look further on this thread, you’ll see I have actually proposed a better solution to the problem. What have you done?

  • Andrew Porter

    By the time this is finished, all cars/trucks will be electric, and self-driving. So, lots less noise and little or no pollution. Hmmm…

  • Liz

    Brooklyn Heights is a designated historic district with landmark protections. Is it legal to build a highway so close? And how will construction and vibrations affect abutting buildings, many of which are over 100 years old?

  • Cranberry Beret

    Key points to raise at the meeting:

    1. Why does DOT think they *need* to maintain 3 lanes in each BQE direction near the Promenade to avoid the miles-long backups they warn of? Westbound BQE already narrows to 2 lanes before passing under the Brooklyn Bridge. This proves 3 lanes aren’t necessary for through traffic coming from Queens. The third lane only resumes from the Old Fulton Street on-ramp; presumably 99% of the additional traffic to fill the 3rd lane is coming from Manhattan via Brooklyn Bridge to travel much further south in Brooklyn or to Staten Island. All of this traffic could easily be diverted via the Battery Tunnel. Eastbound BQE loses its 3rd lane to the Brooklyn Bridge exit ramp just after passing under the bridge’s arch; again, this shows all through traffic to Queens is accommodated by just 2 lanes, and again, all Manhattan-bound traffic can be diverted to the Battery tunnel.

    So, if you assume just 2 lanes each are actually necessary for through traffic that can’t be easily diverted, that sets up a whole new ballgame for temporary construction options by the Promenade. Potentially involving surface traffic on Furman that would be far easier than building a new elevated highway. The Promenade may still need to be closed for reconstruction in this scenario, but it would NOT need to be replaced by an elevated highway.

    2. If the Promenade-killer/elevated highway approach is taken because DOT insists on 6 lanes, does DOT have any option to avoid closure of Squibb Park or Hillside dog park? I see no room to fit 6 lanes in the space occupied by the Columbia Street bridge (which sits over the cantilevered highway; i.e. right now there’s not full 3-lane highways side-by-side). I’m assuming relocating the MTA ventilation building next to Squibb is not happening. So either a few Columbia Heights buildings north of Cranberry need to come down via eminent domain (goodbye, speedy project completion), or Squibb/Hillside parks are reduced or eliminated.

  • New Heights

    I like your first idea. I wouldn’t even recognize the elevated highway as an option, as it’s going to be impossible to achieve without massively disrupting others along the route. Pierrepont playground, for example, would likely need to be closed. As soon as we start negotiating the terms of the elevated highway, our fight is lost.

  • A Concerned Local


    I have spent the last two days, alone, handing out homemade flyers on the promenade and in neighborhood businesses to raise awareness. When I tell people, they are first incredulous and then, when they realize this is a real possibility, appalled and horrified.

    If you object to the elevated highway plan, please go door to door, e-mail your neighbors and building associations, stop people on the streets and tell them. Thursday’s meeting at 1 Metrotech at 6:30 must be packed with people challenging our elected officials and DOT to do better than this.

  • HN

    Could have just said that instead of hurling insults.

  • MaryT

    Ah, I see it. Thanks, Arch.

  • MaryT

    Right. And now I read that the BBP is planning for a huge public pool in Squibb.

    Wha? In 2030?

  • MaryT

    Our board is sending emails out today.

    Does anyone know how many people the auditorium can house?

  • MaryT

    Very good questions. The route issue vis a vie landmark status may be moot, but the effect of construction on private property might not.

    Anyone know?

  • MaryT

    Oops. That’s vis 2x.

  • New Heights

    Yes apparently double the size of the ‘pop up pool’ which is about as usable as a kiddie inflatable pool, and for the reasonable price of $60M!! Way to go city developers!

  • New Heights

    I’ve wondered that myself. I don’t know about you all, but I have single pane windows I can’t replace because of restrictions. But the city can bulldoze our crown jewel in the name of efficiency? I’ll be hearing every car horn on the new BQE.

    I tried looking through the code but it’s mostly limited to house renovations. The promenade was built in the 1940s but looks to be protected on the maps. Anyone have contacts at landmarks to express their views? You can’t just rip up an 80 year old structure and think it will be equally good 6 years later with new tarmac. It won’t be the same, and many of our kids will miss enjoying it for most of their childhoods anyway.

  • New Heights

    The city can affect private homeowners under eminent domain (although would owe compensation). The promenade property used to belong to the properties that abut it. But I think landmarks is a legitimate issue that should be explored.

  • Teresa

    It’s not good news that so many people are oblivious about something that has been so widely reported. I wonder what else they’re missing.

  • ABG


    DOT has worked on this for years and it is not reasonable for us to come up with a realistic counter-solution by Thursdays meeting.

    So I propose a rallying cry: LANE BY LANE, SHARE THE PAIN

    The DOT needs to go back to the drawing board and do the following:

    1. Disincentivize traffic on the route during construction with additional tolls and costs to non-resident drivers and trucks.

    2. Look carefully at the Brooklyn street map and figure out ways to creatively divert the traffic so no single road or neighborhood is overwhelmed.

    3. If necessary/possible, place extra lanes over Furman Street and/or push up against Brooklyn Bridge Park. The park is lovely, but an amenity. The promenade is the embedded soul of the neighborhood.

    My intention is not to vilify the DOT. Their tone is correct and I believe their intentions are good. I do have questions for them, however. I’d like to know why parts of their reports posted on-line are redacted. I’d like to know what assurances they can provide that the Promenade will be rebuilt if their approach prevails and the project experiences cost overruns, or there is a recession or a disaster.

  • gc

    Trashing the Promenade and replacing it with 6 lanes of the BQE cannot and will not happen. I’m afraid anything short of that mindset will fail.

  • Banet

    I would also add, the BHA apparently endorses this plan as the best of several terrible options.

    If you think the BHA needs to make some noise to have the DOT go back to the drawing board, call them or email them and say so!

    (718) 858-9193

  • Jorale-man

    Some good suggestions. Also keep in mind that the DOT is working on a PR campaign around this. See here:

    Interesting/scary point in the article about the possibly having to relocate people who live on Columbia Heights, which to me suggests that the old houses on the street may be in some danger during this project.

  • Banet

    Um, the price for the pool is $10MM to $15MM. And it’s double to triple the size, depending on other amenities they include.

    Please don’t spread misinformation.