BHA to DOT on BQE: “Back to the Drawing Board”

The Brooklyn Heights Association has issued a statement, following last Thursday evening’s meeting with City Department of Transportation representatives, at which many Heights residents expressed strong opposition to the DOT’s “innovative” plan for the needed reconstruction of the cantilevered portion of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway below the Heights that would involve building a temporary six lane expressway at the level of, and replacing, the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for a six year duration. The BHA says it was “extremely heartened” by the community’s response; its statement is:

The message to DOT is clear: Back to the Drawing Board.

The BHA calls upon DOT to work with the community to identify and evaluate other options that do not prioritize motorists at the complete expense of residents.

In addition to the “Traditional” incremental, lane-by-lane approach, DOT must consider other locations for the temporary roadway, including pushing it west of Furman Street.

Other community suggestions that deserve more attention:

• implementing strategies to reduce the volume of BQE traffic, such as reinstituting two-way tolls on the Verrazano Bridge, which requires Congressional approval;
• instituting tolls at East River crossings which would require State approval of the MoveNY Plan;
• using transit solutions similar to the plan for the L train shutdown;
• considering other traffic management measures, such as HOV lanes.

The BHA is committed to leading a campaign to protect the Heights community, as we did in organizing a borough-wide campaign to secure Design-Build authorization.

We ask that DOT take the Innovative Approach off the table. We need to see more options, and we ask that DOT listen to and be responsive to the concerns of our community.

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  • gc

    Great news to wake up to this morning!
    Their leadership and support will make a big difference.

  • Calista

    We’re all incredibly lucky to live in Brooklyn Heights; to put it bluntly, we are lucky that there were wealthy, powerful, vocal people in BH around in the midcentury, to resist Robert Moses’s putting a highway on Hicks Street. People in Red Hook were not so lucky. People in the Bronx were not so lucky. Moses destroyed those regions, and it’s a tragedy.
    As residents of a neighborhood that has basically been spared highways, we should do everything we can to protect *all* Brooklyn and NYC neighborhoods from the encroachments of highways. Putting the highway over the Park would not be an awful precedent. We *do not not need* to turn the park into an underpass so as to spare the Promenade and houses near it. The city really does have better, people-friendly alternatives: let’s advocate for temporarily lowering tolls in the currently under-used Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, which would greatly diminish the number of vehicles trying to use the BQE. Send cars under the city, not over an area that’s used by thousands of families each weekend. (As to the truck issue, one lane of the BQE can be kept open during construction, for those vehicles.) Brooklyn should–as BH residents in the 1950s recognized–be for people, not cars.

  • Nomcebo Manzini

    It’s sad that in an era of highest ever data-gathering, I’ve seen no mention of why the BQE is the clogged artery that it is. If it’s cars from Staten Island (mostly), a couple of approaches deserve consideration; if it’s trucks carrying Amazon purchases or groceries, that might lead to other choices.

    But the key takeaway is this – BH is like Turkey – its location and the now oh so built-up NYC mean that we ARE going to feel some pain. Maybe, our residents have more “clout” per capita than those in Sunset Park, but the failure to deal with this (together with those nasty constraints involving other governments, State & Federal) would really have a serious impact on NYC’s fiscal health.

    There aren’t many who love BBP more than I do, but we have to recognize that encroaching on it is infinitely more practical and less injurious than running 6 lanes of traffic a modest stone’s throw from houses at the West edge of the Heights.

    And just as the DOT dangled, “And we’ll make the promenade wider when we’re done,” I’m sure there’s something they can do by way of “compensation” for any depradation of BBP. If you look at an aerial view of the Park, fortunately, those accomodations would have dramatically less impact on our community and come at a MUCH lower cost.

    Last, given that the engineers – maybe, a previous generation of them – let us down bigtime with the 3 tier design now in need of “life-saving” surgery, should motorists or any City residents TRUST the proposed solution?! I know I don’t!

    When you have a price tag that will – Boston-style – balloon to $6 or $8 billion when all is said and done, you have “space” for visionary approaches – high speed car ferries, say. And that solution would add “infrastructure” on a permanent – not temporary – basis! Until/unless we’re dramatically less reliant on cars and trucks, finding ways to avoid a 90 minute trip from, say, Bay Ridge to midtown – pumping so much carbon monoxide into our air that EVERYBODY’s life expectancy declines – we simply MUST find innovative ways to get from there to here!

  • Banet

    Across these many comments on the BQE I’ve seen a number of people express disappointment with the Peter Bray, Executive Director of the BHA.

    Yes, his initial quote in the press was unfortunate. And yes, the BHA took a little while to come out with their statement. But remember, they didn’t know about any of this any earlier than we did. And the BHA isn’t 1 person. Or 2. It’s 19 members of the board. Understandably, it took them a week to comprehend the issue, listen to their neighbors, and come to a consensus.

    Peter Bray is simply the messenger for the BHA. He does NOT set their policy. He does NOT form their opinions. He speaks for his boss. His boss is the board. Don’t just engage with Peter. Seek out the board and tell them — politely — how you feel. As lifted from the BHA website, here’s the board of the BHA:

    Martha Bakos Dietz (President)
    Daniel Watts (Vice President)
    Erika Belsey Worth (Vice President)
    Carolyn Ziegler (Vice President)
    Christopher Melling (Secretary)
    Kevin Reilly (Treasurer)
    Kerith Aronow
    Cheryl Baker
    Christian Bastian
    Lorraine Bonaventura
    Anne Landman
    Jeremy Lechtzin
    Jane Platt
    Steve Rothman
    Lisa Smith-Dince
    Koren Volk
    Jim Walden
    Christopher Wright
    Inger Staggs Yancey

  • here

    They came out against the DOT highway-on-the-promenade plan:

  • Banet

    Thanks. I know. I actually posted the full text of their letter on a different BQE-related post yesterday.

    I list the board members of the BHA because we’re just 1% into this effort. They’ll need our support for the remaining 99%. Our support in terms of time. In terms of money. In terms of energy.

  • Jorale-man
  • Nomcebo Manzini

    That really IS an excellent article. I waded through the VERY complex previous thread here at BHB, where many a good idea was voiced. I’m now convinced that this is a lot like the Times’ description of Brexit 6 months or so in the NEAR future – some of the same simpletons who voted for it are now pinning their hopes on “something will be worked out at the last minute.”

    Back to I278 – we, too, are starting to run out of time, because 5-10 years from a possible collapse probably coincides with 5-10 years to construct something not catastrophic to the city’s economy. Both from having read and having observed, trucks are the component of traffic that is most intractable. Imagining anything like the current volume of I278 trucks on Fourth Avenue or in a tunnel not yet built or re-routed to NJ … just isn’t gonna happen. It’s precisely as realistic as those whose “plan” is – let’s do nothing and hope that I278 has a Hanukkah story line!

    Like many at the meeting a week or so back, I was thinking, “Lovely as BBP is, it wasn’t always there – blink of an eye, really, so recent is it – and maybe that WOULD BE the lesser of 2 evils.”

    But someone pointed out that 360 Furman (a/k/a 1 BBP) all but eliminates Furman Street as a replacement route. (And Pierhouse puts a 2nd stake through its heart!) And it gets worse – the 2 newest buildings in the park effectively make a “use the park” approach un-viable!

    Something beats nothing, so that Promenade-to-highway idea is going to be awfully tough to torpedo…. My only out-of-the-box thought is a hybrid that involves the shortest possible tunnel/underground stretch or stretches together with most of Furman – with the latter, of course, being widened into land now in BBP.

    I’d forget about “restoring” the existing I278 infrastructure to “main man” status. Instead, it would be repaired like the subways – over a generation – and probably closed to truck traffic in perpetuity.

    And even this approach “assumes” some measure of co-operation between City, State & Federal Govts, presumably forced on the big ego threesome by considerations so large and so obvious that they’ll have to find a way to find some common ground.

    As others have noted, Brooklyn Heights was, in some sense, very lucky that it was able to stand up to Robert Moses. Whether we have the vehicular traffic because he built the roads or vice versa, this looks like the time & place that our luck runs out. VERY SOON, anybody who cares will have to do a lot better than the BHA’s finger in the dyke sally of “DOT, we insist you come back to us with a different plan!” The only reason one THIS CRAZY was advanced is that – absent a “President Bloomberg,” there simply isn’t enough time and money to fashion an alternate solution that’s really less hellish or less preposterous.

  • DMB


    We are starting a movement – while I appreciate the work that BHA is doing, we need to take matters in our own hands.

    All hands on deck and no compromises this time.

    Check out

    We are just going live

    Twitter up too

  • Nomcebo Manzini

    The Times article is excellent … and the mock-up on website’s front page allows one to visualize what the DOT’s “preferred” solution would look like – ROUGHLY. (It shows a low volume moment with a few whiter-than-white trucks … and looks (maybe!) like something we could literally live with … for a few years.

    But if you’ve even been on I-95 almost any time, night or day – and who hasn’t? – those drawings are exposed as utterly deceptive.

    When the West Side Highway was undergoing its “transformation” (30 years ago ?), putting at least part of it underground was proposed … and vetoed, presumably for cost reasons.

    Assuming that that the passage of time only makes that an even tougher obstacle (cost), my careful look at aerial photos tells me that maybe there is an alternative – basically using a much widened Furman Street – IF eminent domain is used to remove some of the structures on Columbia Place. (1 Brooklyn Bridge Park is a colossal building that all but forces the DOT to make the proposal it did.)

    This is one of those Solomonic moments – air quality in BH will border on life threatening … OR a very small number of businesses and residents (now on Columbia Pl.) will have their lives turned upside down.

  • Nomcebo Manzini

    I’m afraid this is a joke of a website – not literally, but in terms of “seriousness.”

    They state – as if it might be taken seriously – “we can no longer live over a highway.” Kind of reminiscent of “save the view.”

    There’s a big difference between wishing things were different – yes running “the BQE” under Fourth Avenue would have been great for “our” quality of life, but so would a guaranteed annual income of $100K per household. If you don’t understand the word “unreasonable,” you cannot be taken seriously.

    What IS needed is an alternative plan. The one I suggest that basically “builds out” Furman Street would surely come at a much lower cost than what the DOT has proposed and NOT make our lovely neighborhood hellish.

    Other people, of course, have suggested approaches that the DOT says that it’s either considered or will consider. But this is like 80 Flatbush. You didn’t have to be a big cynic to know that they’d lop off a few stories … and get a green light from the City Council.

    Here, too, unless the BHA or someone else with clout and brains comes up with a credible alternative – and yes, the sooner the better – and ideally has the wherewithal to commission an engineering study, the DOT will pick up where it left off at the recent meeting.

    Ms. Trottenberg of the DOT is quoted as saying: “As much as you might hate what we propose, I think what we found when we looked at it is that none of the options are going to be very lovable.”

    This is very serious business, and fuzzy (wistful) thinking increases the likelihood of only those 2 awful choices being considered. “Tourists will be deprived if a top-10 photo site” or even “Where will the children play?” are 2 of many examples. (Each has obvious answers, too, and “But my nanny is comfortable with the playground at Pierrepont” is NOT the stuff with which to fight City Hall.)

    “Just say no” doesn’t work with drugs or sex! It is even LESS LIKELY to work with the DOT … and – face it – a City where cars and trucks are NOT obsolete.

  • Andrew Porter

    I’m a longtime member, and donate more than the bare minimum. I wonder how many other posters here are?

  • Andrew Porter

    As the number of electric trucks and vehicles rises, the amount of noise and pollution will fall.

  • Brixtony

    I think many people are missing something obvious about this debate which is: whatever the plan is to rehabilitate, repair, replace or eliminate the highway, the Promenade will have to be closed for some time since it’s the top layer on a triple level structure that’s falling apart. This will also apply to the Chapin park and other amenities such as the Hillside Dog Run, which are located on or right next to the infamous triple cantilevered rust pile. For example, if a tunnel is Plan C, how will the Promenade exist if there is no highway below it? Or could the whole thing be reconfigured into the Brooklyn Heights Highline?

  • DMB

    Sorry- not sure what your point is beyond criticising my horrible website design!

    Yes, my engineering constraint is to shutdown the highway between Atlantic and sands. Full stop.

    I am an engineer, but not a traffic or civil engineer- but it’s their problem to work a solution with this constraint.

    As far as tax dollars go – Brooklyn Hieghts with its tax base seems to get nothing. I raised two kids that went to the dirty and old Chapin and Pierrepont park with no single repair or renovation in 10 years. Other than some street paving I see a ton of outflow of tax dollars and not much inflow.

    We also deal with huge particulate pollution given the oritentiation vs a highway at same level and constantly have to fund damage to our buildings from the vibrations. Also there’s congestion that affect Atlantic and Hicks and other streets.

    I’m done with it – they have a depreciated asset that will become useless without investment- so they are at their back- given the personal load, the promenade is not depreciated. This is the second wave of resistance- the first created this compromise and the second will now destroy it.

    By the way- all the data on traffic sources and tunnel alternatives is documented in the report they posted, no counter cost is given to loss of business and real estate values and tax base for the existing and new apartments going up of which there is a huge wave.

    That’s it- not gonna happen and it’s gonna be a fight to the end

  • gc

    Not sure that I buy the contention that the Promenade is falling apart the same way that the lower two levels are. The Promenade has not had to support 24/7 truck and car traffic for almost 70 years the way the two lower levels have. Clearly the Promenade has not had the kind of upkeep it deserves but, to me, it could well be that what’s required is much more superficial than what’s required below.Not sure that I buy the contention that the Promenade is falling apart the same way that the lower two levels are. The Promenade has not had to support 24/7 truck and car traffic for almost 70 years the way the two lower levels have. Clearly the Promenade has not had the kind of upkeep it deserves but, to me, it could well be that what’s required is much more superficial than what’s required below.

  • Brixtony

    How about this: the Promenade is the third floor , or roof of a three story house. The lower floors are crumbling. Do you let them go while fixing the top one? If the highway is removed, what holds up the Promenade?

  • gc

    Maybe the lower floors need significant repair but the roof just needs shingles replaced?
    I’m all for having a qualified highway engineer make the final call.

  • Eddyde

    The City engineers already did determine the entire structure needs to be replaced, including the Promenade. You can read the engineers report on the BQE website.

  • Eddyde

    If the tunnel is built and the highway is eliminated the Promenade could likely remain. Without the weight and vibration of the traffic the structure would probably reman stable for many decades. If needed, support columns could be added as they wouldn’t be in the way of traffic. Then we could have a triple decker Promenade!

  • gc

    Sounds good to me. Maybe the city can be convinced to join the 21st century.