Reminder: Meeting Thursday Evening on BQE Repairs and Promenade

The Brooklyn Heights Association has details on the Update meeting on BQE Rehabilitation, a project that could include closing the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for years and building a temporary six lane highway that would bring traffic to the level of Heights residences. Alternatively, it could cause major diversions of truck and car traffic to local streets.

The meeting will be held at the National Grid Auditorium, on the second floor of One Metrotech Center (enter from Jay Street). Presentations begin at 6:30 and ends at 8:30, but doors open at 5:30; best to get there early if you want a good seat. The presentations by officials will be followed by time for comments from the audience. The meeting location is ADA accessible.

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  • Greg

    Please see these articles on the concept of “induced demand”: how major urban highway closures often don’t have the “carmageddon” effect people predict, and how new highway capacity can make congestion worse:

    This is a complicated matter and it’s not obvious how the BQE plays out. The point, though, is that simple predictions claiming existing traffic flow will just spill onto other streets or back up X miles are likely not thought out very deeply. Or supported by clear evidence.

  • Greg

    Potential points of debate on the DOT proposal at

    – p. 6: The averaged projected cost of the incremental approach ($3.7 billion) is 8.8% higher than the average “innovative” cost ($3.4 billion). At best it will actually be 6% cheaper! At worst it will be 25% more expensive. This assumes the DOT’s budget ranges are accurate.
    – p. 6: What precisely makes the cost of the “innovative” approach more reliable?
    – p. 8: Why precisely does the “innovative” approach provide better access to Brooklyn Bridge Park? What about the negative impacts on the park, which go unmentioned?
    – p. 9: “Much of the promenade will be closed”. What does “much” mean? All of it? Will parts remain practically usable? Or just odd corners that no one would want to be in?
    – p. 9: No mention of traffic diversion due to construction of the temporary roadway. This will have no impact at all on the existing BQE while being built?
    – p. 9: Mentions that the highway’s “dramatic impact” is “primarily visual”. Do we agree with this? What’s the expected pollution impact, which goes unmentioned?
    – p. 9: Why 6 years?
    – p. 11: Why do both proposals produce the same amount of tree loss?
    – p. 12: Why does the “traditional” approach leave a “column” in front of 360 Furman? What does that actually mean?
    – p. 13: What data informs the “backups possibly leading to Staten Island” comment given the concept of induced demand I mention in my other comment? Is this fact-based or speculation?
    – p. 15: Where do all of these backup estimates come from and how do they relate to induced demand and actual precedentd showing other highway closures don’t realize the expected “carmageddon” experts predict?

  • Banet

    Greg, thanks for the links. Excellent articles.

    Indeed, while I don’t have very high hopes for all the questions being asked, let alone answered, I would add to the list:

    the extensive back ups that you cite if certain lanes are not open, do these estimates account for drivers changing behaviors to avoid said back ups? Drivers taking the Brooklyn battery tunnel? Drivers taking public transportation? Drivers staying home?

    Or are you simply assuming that every single vehicle on the road today will remain on the road?

    Because I know if I was facing a 7 mile long traffic jam I would certainly change MY behavior. And that changed behavior does not necessarily include driving surface roads for 7 miles.

  • Eddyde

    As a construction professional, I can help answer some of your concerns.
    1. From a construction perspective, it is much easier to build new than to renovate old. The less interface between existing structure and the replacement, the less unknown factors can arise.
    2. It is much more efficient to have total access to a construction site than to work on it piecemeal and have to work around obstacles.
    Basically, if they can completely shut down the cantilever, demolish most of it and build a mostly new structure unimpeded, the work can proceed much faster and will be more predictable.

  • Herman on Henry

    Tree loss should be the least of anyone’s concerns regarding this project and it’s impact on the neighborhood.

  • Concerned

    Greg, these articles are excellent and I think you should raise them at the meeting.

  • gc

    Any reliable estimates on how many visitors the Promenade attracts per year?
    I’ve looked and couldn’t find an answer.

  • gc

    Has DOT conducted any engineering tests on the residences along the proposed work zone to determine the likelihood of one or more of these 150+ year old homes collapsing as a result of this project?

  • Jorale-man

    I don’t know the exact answer to that but in the Gothamist follow-up article, it states, “An environmental assessment will determine whether residents at Columbia Heights and Cranberry Street, by the most damaged part of the triple cantilever section of the BQE, will have to be relocated during construction.” To me that suggests that the houses may be in some danger (and clearly, the trees behind them would be as well).

  • rail

    Thank you for this post and continued coverage of this issue.

  • ABG
  • IRK

    FYI The meeting location has changed. It’s still at 18:30 but will now be held at:

    NYCHA Ingersoll Houses Community Center
    177 Myrtle Avenue (corner of Prince Street)
    For more information email or call 332-999-4520

  • ABG



  • Banet

    In speaking to a member of the BHA last night (dog walks for the win!) they said that under the “Innovative Approach” (which I like to call the Insane Approach”) they’d have to drive piles into the ground the entire length of the Promenade.

    Can you image what would happen to these 150 year old homes with dozens (hundreds?) of piles being hammered into the ground just 30′ away? You can look for a dozen lawsuits and stop-work orders that drag out the whole process along with numerous Evacuation Orders

    This is an epic mess no matter how you approach it.

  • Greg

    Can anyone stop by some of these buildings and inform the residents of this quote and Thursday’s meeting schedule?

    Would a poster on a front door be acceptable (i.e. not considered soliciting)?

  • Greg

    Thanks for these insights, Eddy.

    Do you have any thoughts on the 6 year timeframe?

  • Local_Montague_Man

    Innovative vs traditional approach… stacked deck

  • Eddyde

    You’re welcome,
    As I understand from the press release, the 6 year timeframe breaks down like this; 1.5 years building the temporary roadway, 3 years rebuilding the cantilever structure, 1.5 years removing the temporary roadway and restoring the Promenade. IMHO it’s certainly possible. But will it play out that way? It depends on the team dynamics. Every construction project has a life of its own, it is the sum of all those involved and the person at the helm.

  • Banet

    Maybe they can hire the crack construction team behind The Bossert. ;-)

  • Cranberry Beret

    Also, I’ve heard that some houses on the west side of Columbia Heights have support pieces for the cantilever, which extend out from underneath the Promenade and into their basements! Presumably related to the buried pieces of infrastructure in the Promenade gardens that the work team was recently using ground-penetrating radar to look for. Someone should ask the meeting if this is in fact true and how the plan envisions accommodating that set of facts.

  • Cranberry Beret

    I don’t understand how the BQE team plans to “relocate” residents but they claim not to be considering eminent domain. If you’re taking my property away for 6-10 years, that’s a taking. Anyone remember how long it took the state to resolve the Atlantic Yards eminent domain cases? No way this is happening quickly.

  • gc

    Let’s get Mayor Bill deBlasio’s name out in front of this. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that he is where the buck stops. If so let’s get the heat started so he knows it’s not going to be a pretty fight. Let’s see how he feels about becoming the Robert Moses of this generation.

  • Eddyde

    He screwed us on the LICH closing, I doubt he’ll be of any help on this issue either. The man has no integrity whatsoever.

  • gc

    I also doubt he wants to help on this issue. That’s why we need to apply all kinds of pressure on him. We have to make it so hot that he screams uncle.


    Great meeting. Seems like decision to build over the Promenade is a ploy to protect the Brooklyn Bridge Park. Incredible amount of applause when this was suggested.

  • Banet

    I don’t follow. How does building on the Promenade protect the park? If anything, the extended decking (Which would be permanent) would likely reflect vehicle noise down over the berms and into the park.

  • Greg

    I take the DOT at face value that they don’t have jurisdiction over the park so didn’t think that option through as carefully.

    That said, it does seem we need to seriously consider this along with the existing 2 options.

    My first thought was that cutting through the “interior” of the park closest to the BQE would be best of all worlds: the waterfront side of the park would be saved and there’d be enough extra space to drop all mention of an elevated promenade highway.

    But 360 Furman and the new luxury condos by the bouncy bridge create problems. Plus there remains the problem of what to do north of the promenade as the highway turns toward the Brooklyn Bridge.

    It’d be interesting to see some sketched showing viable routes.

  • Greg

    There was a lot of talk, and widespread support, of running the temporary highway through the park. Possibly into the berms themselves.

    The DOT said they haven’t considered that because they’ve only been looking at their “right of way”, which is essentially the current footprint.

  • Banet

    Greg, do you mean route the vehicles on Furman Street? That’s only 2 lanes wide. They need 5 lanes at least. Possibly 6.

    And even if they could go wider into the berm footprint, you’re right — 360
    Furman, Pierhouse, and the park HQ are all in the way.

  • Greg

    Hopefully my other comment elucidates?

    Tonight’s slide deck included some excellent videos illustrating what the DOT’s two proposals would look like: essentially a video walkthrough of each proposal from Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street.

    I hope that’s made available publicly. It’s really helpful for visualizing.