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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  • Eddyde

    I was at the meeting. They did say only one tunnel route was possible but the report says there are in fact two. They also said it it was only possible to build a tunnel with 4 lanes (2 each way) but the report shows there are indeed possible ways to get 6 lanes. They were clearly lying and downplaying the tunnel but didn’t rule it out completely (when asked about possibly eliminating the cantilever). Look, the bottom line, it’s the tunnel or one of the two proposed reconstruction scenarios, either of which would be a nightmare.

  • gatornyc

    It would hardly have made a difference as there were still too many existing structures along Furman for it to have made much of a difference. You would have had a staging area that’s about it.

  • gatornyc

    No, they specifically said that Pierrepont Playground would not be closed.

  • Banet

    It may technically not need to close, but who will want their kid playing 10 feet from a 6 lane interstate? They may as well close it.

  • Eddyde

    The ramp would only impinge along the highway side of the dog run. The problem is, no one from the Heights will be able to access it as Columbia Heights will be cut off.

  • Eddyde

    Not necessarily, the temporary highway could have been routed along the edge of the water.

  • Banet

    Eddyde, while it’s clear that you *looked* at the report, I’m not sure that you actually *read* the report.

    Yes, page 20 shows a tunnel with 3 lanes of traffic in each direction. But if you actually read the paragraph that appears directly above the illustration it clearly states that there’s no tunnel boring machine in existence that can make a tunnel that large.

    For your convenience I’ve pasted the pertinent text below. Make sure to read the final sentence.

    “Figure 3-2 shows the stacked tunnel configuration with EB I-278 BQE over the WB I-278 BQE. Using the minimum dimensions per the design criteria, a minimum inside diameter of 60’-0” is required for this tunnel. Assuming a nominal thickness of 3’-0” for the tunnel lining segments, the minimum outside diameter would be 66’-0”. This diameter could be further increased based on ventilation and egress requirements, which were not considered in this study. As listed in Table 3-2, the largest TBM which was manufactured to date is 57.74’ in diameter (although the diameter of the TBM for Orlovsky Tunnel, Saint Petersburgh, Russia was 62.34’, the project is on hold). Hence a single tunnel with stacked configuration for the I-278 BQE East and West bound roadway with 3 lanes of traffic is deemed to be not feasible at this time based on the state of the art.”

  • Eddyde

    With all due respect, did you read the report? On the next page it shows a dual tube configuration with three lanes in each direction and is clearly stated as “feasible”. Indeed the Holland, Queens–Midtown and the Battery Tunnels are two tubes each, the Lincoln Tunnel has three tubes. These tunnels were built between 1920-1957, without using TBM’s. Countries all over the world are building highway tunnels to deal with traffic. There are no excuses.

  • Banet

    Indeed, they show 3 lane in each direction, but as you say, that’s in 2 tubes. That dramatically increases the cost of the overall project. (I’m sure it doesn’t double it, but it’s got to be a substantial number). Since a single tube was deemed too expensive, I don’t see how a double tube has any chance at all.

    Should the city and the country bear the enormous expense of tunnel so we don’t have to bear the pain of an interstate on the Promenade for 3 years? The chaos of construction outside our windows for 6 years? The decimation of our neighborhood’s economy for a decade? I certainly think so. But I don’t most of Brooklyn, NYC or America would agree.

    One of the biggest challenges we face as a community is not coming off as NIMBY. The incremental approach will frequently result in 3 mile long backups through Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens in the BQE ditch. Is it better that they face breathing exhaust every now and again so we don’t have to breath it 24/7? I think so. But I bet they don’t feel that way.

    We need to find another way. (Personally, I’d like to hear more about Greg’s proposal of routing the highway, double-decker, along Furman, slightly intruding upon the footprint of the park,

  • Eddyde

    Yes, a tunnel would be expensive but IMHO worth it, not only for BH but for the city as well. The construction costs could be recouped by tolls. Also, it could make the cantilever and trench obsolete, how nice would that be?
    Unfortunately, I don’t think the BBP route is realistic as the squeeze is too tight past the buildings and the increased cost would yield little gain.

  • Banet

    I never thought about the idea of tolling the tunnel. That would be nice. Though it would be a shame to see tons of cars crawl along 4th avenue in pursuit of bypassing the tolls. And the cantilever would likely still be required as the tunnel doesn’t come close to offering a route to the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. But it would allow the canitlever reconstruction to take it’s time, using the incremental approach.