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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  • gc

    Peter Bray seems to have ruled out diverting traffic as “not a feasible alternative”(from the Politico story that starts this thread). For my money he needs to say the same about paving over the Promenade with 6 lanes of traffic for what might be a decade.


    This is asinine. You should double their estimates on both the cost & timeline (statistically, this would not too far off for most DOT project overruns). If this thing goes through, an entire generation will miss out on the promenade and have a loud, dirty highway erected in our backyards spewing noxious fumes into our community.

    Show up on Thursday and bring every neighbor you can. We need to SHOW UP and represent our interests, or else we’ll just get steamrolled.

    I’m also submitting a comment on the official project site, here, and urge you all to do the same:

    Here’s what I wrote – feel free to modify as appropriate and send as well.

    Thank you for sharing the details behind the plan. I think everybody appreciates the complexity of the project and the challenges of the decisions that need to be made.

    I am writing as a Brooklyn Heights resident, voting constituent, and NYC tax payer, to register my strong opposition to the proposed solution of building a 6 lane elevated highway and closing down the promenade for 6 years or more. This solution is placing a disproportionate burden on the residents of the Brooklyn Heights community and those who frequent the promenade from all across the city. The proximity of such a proposed highway to parks, residences, and historical landmarks is a non-starter.

    I strongly urge you to consider alternatives and more rigorously question the assumptions behind this plan, and devise a more comprehensive solution that includes additional tolling that disincentives traffic through this corridor, and/or more creative solutions for diverting traffic across multiple streets so as not to burden any one single neighborhood disproportionately.

    I hope you will be there on Thursday to address the questions and concerns of the community, as we certainly will.

  • Arch Stanton

    Chanting “CARS WILL NOT REPLACE US”… oh wait…

  • no6lanes

    I’d be very happy to hear BHA has not endorsed this. I think they have to go much further, though, to STRONGLY oppose it. Anything less, and it will be time to organize against the leadership there.

  • Arch Stanton

    You apparently know little of engineering. The temporary highway will be designed to only have a relatively short lifespan, long term use will be impossible.

  • ABG

    Every board president of every building in the neighborhood should be notifying their residents of Thursday’s meeting and this proposal. Let’s talk to our neighbors and make that happen.

  • Arch Stanton
  • Banet

    Interestingly, the DOT presentation outright says the approach they do NOT prefer “avoids dramatic Promenade impacts, but has major impact on much larger group of residents and drivers”.

    So they’re basically saying they prefer the choice that impacts Brooklyn Heights to make everyone else’s like easier.

    I’d be fine with that if we got to charge a toll on the road to compensate us… but since the highway is for the ENTIRE city (if not the entire eastern seaboard) then the ENTIRE city should bear the brunt of the disruption.

    Really, the only “benefit” for Brooklyn Heights they list is a Promenade that’s 35′ deeper… but I don’t recall anyone asking for a wider Promenade and I feel like making it bigger just attracts yet more people here.

    Oh yes, they also mention “study[ing] new pedestrian bridge to Brooklyn Bridge Park” but that’s a false argument. Why can that only be explored with this approach? It seems like a bridge that crosses the BQE and heads down to the park could be built regardless of how they approach the rebuilding of the road.

  • maybe4lanes

    A post urging people to come to the meeting in the headline would be a start. And it’s not “personal advocacy” if this blog took a position against a proposal that could destroy this neighborhood for 6-12 years.

  • Banet

    This is very well written.

  • Andrew Porter

    This is what I received from the BHA yesterday:

    DOT to Present Construction Options at Thursday Evening Meeting

    The NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that it is considering two construction options – the Innovative and the Traditional Approaches – to handle traffic during the reconstruction of the BQE slated to start in 2020-2021. One of them would involve a temporary 6-lane roadway at the Promenade level while the traffic lanes below are being rebuilt.

    Concerned residents seeking information on these options are urged to attend the public meeting sponsored by DOT on Thursday, September 27th, 6:30 – 8:30 PM at the National Grid Auditorium, 1 MetroTech, 2nd Floor (entry on Jay Street). Doors will open at 5:30 PM. The meeting is handicapped accessible.

    Under the Innovative Approach, the temporary elevated roadway would take the place of the Promenade, which would be rebuilt about 3 years later. This approach would shorten the overall construction period from 9 to 6 years, limit required weekend and overnight lane closures, save cost, and reduce diversions onto local streets and their attendant environmental and safety impacts.

    The Traditional Approach would use incremental lane-by-lane closures. While avoiding the most severe impacts on the Promenade and nearby residents, According to DOT, it would not permit broader potential community improvements. It would also involve many more full weekend and overnight closures, increasing the amount of overnight construction activity. If lanes cannot be reopened during the day, extensive traffic backups would occur.


    Note that this does NOT contain a BHA opinion about which option is best.

  • gc

    OK. I’ve read it. I’m all for the tunnel you mentioned earlier. I don’t see that mentioned here. Paving over the Promenade with 6 lanes of the BQE for a decade or more is not a feasible alternative to me.That cannot happen.

  • Greg

    Thank you for this link.

    I read the entire thing and what I read was a report bending over backwards to downplay the consequences of the elevated highway approach and play up the risks the incremental approach.

    I have an even harder time reading this as an unbiased source of truth now. I look forward to proper discussion including stakeholders from the actual neighborhood who, whatever their opinions, don’t need this report to speak for them.

  • Arch Stanton

    Given those two choices, I agree with the DOT. The way I see it; the cantilever saved the nabe from destruction it is only fair we take the brunt of its reconstruction woe. As much as I enjoy the Promenade and don’t want to see it closed, I cannot justify subjecting over a hundred thousand people a day to a decade of horrendous traffic delays, all for the preservation of a view.

    The tunnel plan is a win for most everyone, it must be resurrected.

  • Sheila Kaplan

    This 1st picture has a stamp making it public domain. You don’t need permission to post. I don’t see the source of the picture below but ‘ditto’ if it’s a govt picture — would be ok to post.

  • Mitch

    Speak for yourself.

    How is it “fair” for us to take the brunt of this? 100s of thousands of commuters benefit while we get screwed is the opposite of fair.

    How are you ascribing value/cost to inconveniencing drivers vs. costs of environmental impact, impact to historic landmarks, property devaluation, and the complete clusterf*** of having a highway dropped into your backyard for a decade that spews pollution and fumes into the local community, park, and school?

  • Banet

    Personally, I’m not worried at all about the temporary loss of “a view“. There are lots of places to go to enjoy a nice view. (Though, I suppose, there are a certain number of elderly among us who use the promenade as their only accessible park. I feel terribly for them.)

    And I’m not really that worried about the air pollution. Honestly, the highway is already there and the air pollution is already all over our neighborhood. If you don’t believe me, spend some time with your child playing at Pierrepont playground. I know parents who specifically reserve dark clothing for their children to go there because it is so sooty. If pollution is your concern, then you might want to seriously support the highway replacing the promenade as it will keep cars moving faster and should cut down on the duration of the project. That, in turn, will lead to less pollution.

    I think the much, much larger issue is the noise. Elevating the highway to the level of the promenade will send tremendous, tremendous amounts of noise throughout a large swath of the neighborhood. Basically you will be able to hear your brakes on trucks, ambulance sirens, the Wooster of vehicles, and the occasional horn, all the way up to Henry Street on every street that runs east/west. That’s hundreds of homes and thousands of residents. These are people who chose to live in Brooklyn Heights in large part specifically *because* it is so quiet and peaceful. That will all be destroyed.

    And if you think that this promenade-replacing plan will keep traffic off our local streets, you’ve got to be kidding. If there’s the slightest bit of added congestion due to the construction then everyone’s navigation will recommend getting off the highway and taking the local roads to avoid the traffic. Hicks Street and Henry Street will turn in the parking lot regardless. :-/

  • HN

    You don’t win arguments with insults, especially when your logic is flawed. I don’t think many people agree with your definitions of short-term and long-term. In any case, many infrastructure projects are used longer than intended or are designed for. The most obvious example is…the BQE cantilever.

  • Cranberry Beret

    Oh gosh, I hate to wade into the photo-copyright wars that mysteriously have taken hold on this blog, but Sheila you’re wrong. Just because the source is a government agency does NOT automatically mean it’s public domain. In particular, state/local governments usually retain copyright (contrast to the Federal government, which usually doesn’t). As an example, the NYC Municipal Archives vigorously protects its publicly-owned images under copyright.

    BTW, I have no idea about the status of this particular photo.

  • ABG

    I spoke to Peter Bray yesterday. The tunnel is at this time not a feasible solution for many reasons. It was studied, ruled out and the time for it has passed. If like me, you don’t want to see this happen, let’s focus on other realistic solutions such as challenging the DOT to come up with a differently innovative traffic structure and challenging our politicians to view this as an opportunity to lead the country by example in reducing our dependency on cars by limiting the road to trucks and HOV at all times.

  • Arch Stanton

    Good point on the pollution being a non issue, I totally agree.
    As far as noise, yes it has the potential to be a problem However, a sound attenuation barrier could be easily added alongside the temporary roadway to mitigate traffic noise.
    Concerning local street traffic, Sure there may be a slight increase at times, even with the temporary roadway but it would certainly buy much worse and constant with the lane closures.

  • Arch Stanton

    Oh boy… (rolls eyes)

    As mentioned above, the pollution is a break even as we already have a 6 lane highway there, the exhaust fumes will go wherever the wind blows, nothing can change that.

    It’s not just about commuters, it’s about commerce, the BQE is a vital part of the north-east trucking corridor (where do you think your food come from?). Slowing it down will cost business billons of dollars over the duration of construction.

    There will be no permanent impact on the landmark status of the Heights.

    Property values are not guaranteed for anyone. Besides, if they were affected by the construction, it would only be temporary.

  • Brixtony

    I would also point out that the story on Gothamist mentioned parks being closed also (plural). I assume that at least this refers to the Hillside Dog Run which looks to be a convenient spot for the ”temporary “ high road to rejoin the highway at some point. Others have mentioned that it could be used as a staging area for equipment etc. This is the best dog park in the city and is used daily by many people and dogs, not all from the neighborhood.

  • Liz

    Pollution is a huge issue. Columbia Heights and Pierrepont playground are currently shielded from a lot of pollution because the BQE is underneath them, not at street level, and has a wall along the eastern edge.
    Compare that to air quality near the western edge of the BQE (in BK Bridge park), where the freeway is closer to street level and there’s no wall. Air quality is much, much worse along that western edge.
    I notice it daily. I run through the park and walk along Columbia Heights every morning. There’s a huge difference in air quality.

  • HN

    Don’t be too sure of yourself.

    Infrastructure projects have a way of living beyond what their designed for, especially in the United States. The BQE cantilever is a prime example! Do you think that they would design and build something that will automatically crumble within 6y with no margin of safety?

    Your definition or relatively short lifespan is highly questionable and does not conform to community norms. 6-10y is almost an entire childhood, it’s half a generation, it’s more or less 10% of an average American’s lifespan.

  • Sheila Kaplan

    Thanks for the correction. Federal differs from state/local. I didn’t realize there’s a copyright law war on the blog.

  • gc

    Totally agree. With the winds mostly out of the west and no Promenade providing some measure of protection, air pollution will be much, much worse.

  • Arch Stanton

    Sorry hon, Science doesn’t care what you believe.

  • Banet

    I expect Pierrepont Playground and Harry Chapin Playground would both be closed as well. Especially Chapin.

  • Banet

    Arch, a few of your statements are awfully glib and dismissive.

    Of course property values are not guaranteed but that doesn’t mean each individual shouldn’t fight tooth and nail against anything that devalues their investment.

    While you’ve lived here a long, long time (as I recall from past posts), there are many families that move after being here just 3 to 5 years. Sometimes they live in a 1 bedroom and get pregnant and need more space. Sometimes they have a kid but get pregnant with a second kid. Sometimes they have kids but didn’t get into the school the want. Sometimes they’re elderly and the can’t handle the stairs in their home. Sometimes their young and receive a diagnosis that requires relocation. Sometimes they get relocated for work. Sometimes they decide the suburbs are a better fit for their life. Sometimes they get divorced.

    Bottom line, there are endless reasons people have to move that are outside their control. Having their home lose 10% to 50% of its value to benefit others isn’t really an argument I support.

    Also, you say “there will be no permanent impact on the landmark status of the Heights.”

    Unless you work high up in the DOT I don’t know how you could possibly make this statement with a straight face. While most of what we have to go on right now is rumor and conjecture, I was told last night by a member of the BHA that the Promenade-replacing approach will require driving piles deep into the ground the entire length of the Promenade, more or less right where the treeline is.

    Assuming that’s true, how do you know that the vibrations won’t do serious, serious damage to the dozens of 150 year old buildings located just 40′ away?

    In terms of commerce and the movement of goods, it’s not like these trucks are filled with goods manufactured in Brooklyn. The vast majority are simply looking for a slightly faster or cheaper route to move goods from Jersey, across Staten Island, through Brooklyn and into Manhattan or points north. There are numerous other routes that get to the same place. And honestly, if there’s any kind of regular minor backup due to this project I expect a large percentage of those trucks will redirect themselves away from the traffic.

    Finally, while I’m the one who originally posited that net/net it’s the same amount of pollution, I’m inclined to accept the word of the above poster who spends time both in the park and on the Promenade. If her lungs note a difference, there’s likely a material difference. Certainly that’s easy enough to measure with the proper equipment.