BHA: de Blasio “Blindsided” Brooklyn Heights on BQE

Brooklyn Heights Association President Martha Bakos Dietz (in photo, helping at Save the Promenade’s stand during the Montague Street Sunday Social today) issued this statement in response to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that he favors the city DOT’s “innovative” option for BQE reconstruction:

As the President of the Board of Governors of the Brooklyn Heights Association, I was stunned to read the Crain’s report that Mayor de Blasio supports the New York City Department of Transportation’s so-called ‘Innovative’ approach to the reconstruction of the BQE.

At a time when the BHA has been trying to meet again with the DOT to urge serious consideration of alternatives to its two proposals, the Mayor makes it clear that the City does not care to hear our community’s opinion.

We certainly agree that the rehabilitation of the BQE is necessary and urgent and we are willing, as a neighborhood, to share the pain.

But the Mayor’s reference to the DOT’s alternative plan as a Band-Aid approach is condescending and dismissive of the very real consequences to Brooklyn Heights of an approach that would place six lanes of highway traffic in close proximity to an historic district and its almost two-centuries-old buildings.

We truly think there are other options to be considered and the City needs to meet with us as soon as possible to discuss these.

The BHA urges local residents and anyone concerned with the preservation of the Promenade to support Save the Promenade and to email the Mayor’s representative to Brooklyn Heights, Mr. Daniel Abramson, at

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  • Arch Stanton

    Yeah, while smoking a joint.
    “dont worry folks, I got it”

  • Cranberry Beret

    DOT was very clear in the meeting that the two options presented were two that solved the problem based on their input parameters. They did NOT say those were the only two feasible options. Their main assumptions included maintaining highway traffic volume as close to status quo as possible, and doing construction within the footprint of the current highway. The prioritization of those assumptions is one of many things that is still up for debate. There are other feasible engineering options that flow from a different set of prioritized assumptions.

  • gc

    “Thoroughly ridiculous” is the exact phrase I’ve heard most often as people’s reaction to the so-called innovative approach.

  • Still Here

    I don’t think it would go through the park, but over the east spine of the park on pilings (like the Gowanus at Hamilton Ave). It is similar to the Innovative, be elevated (four stories), but would curve out near Squib Park over the berms and would have to be at the same height as the Innovative plan to clear the MTA buildings, And then swerve back through the pinch before 360 Furman. It would be a ‘modified Innovative’ – the northern end would still go over the bridges which offers the same potential benefits of
    the innovative – Access to the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges and ending the rerouting of large trucks onto Atlantic Avenue due to current height restrictions – Cobble hill would like that. All good for neighborhood traffic.

    Ultimately, if above the park, you would have a temporary 6 lane highway 70 ft away instead of 6 ft away from the Columbia Heights properties, which would mitigate (some) noise and pollution. But, you would have to then remove it after the BQE and Promenade were replaced. It would add more time and certainly more expense.

  • Arch Stanton

    Thats’ all you got LOL

  • Arch Stanton

    Slightly more plausible but still is defeated at the buildings at the southern end unless it maintains a height at or above the promenade.
    Cost more, yes probably by a billion dollars and add years to the project.
    The temporary highway is proposed to be operational for 3 years. How about compensating everyone who’s windows will be within say 50 ft, of the temp roadway. give em $50k a year to live elsewhere if the want. That would cost a lot less.

  • StudioBrooklyn

    DeBlasio fought a media game against Brooklyn Heights during the initial stages of park/condo-highrise development by propagating a carefully staged sequence of myths:

    -that Brooklyn Heights is homogeneously made up of wealthy people.
    -that new developments (such as those that came as part of the park deal) will bring more income diversity to the neighborhood.
    -that part of that income diversity would include poor or underprivileged families (benefitting from the cleverly named “affordable housing” options embedded into new developments).
    -that Brooklyn Heights residents who opposed those new developments did so because they are racist and elitist.

    So, your “wake up, Brooklyn Brownstone Liberals” criticism of him smacks of acceptance of DeBlasio’s own anti-BH narrative, as well as makes the false presumption that he has, or ever had, the unilateral support of the neighborhood. (Many of us saw through his LICH promises!)

  • gc

    See below for a more detailed plan for utilizing BBP as a partial solution. At the start of this thread I said that mine was a layman’s perspective.

  • MaggieO

    doubt that’s a feasible solution Roberto. read up on how the FDR was actually constructed, engineering challenges of bridge building, environmental concerns regarding construction in the river itself, etc.

  • skunky

    why should anyone actually educate themselves on the issue at hand when it is far easier to pontificate wildly and make up “solutions” out of their fantastical imaginations?

  • Remsen Street Dweller

    Someone already is — and they’re in Washington!

  • Andrew Porter

    Please do not feed the trolls!

  • Cranberry Beret

    If you think the construction and traffic back-ups will be bothersome, just wait til you hear the helicopters swarming day & night to observe the back-ups!

  • Cranberry Beret

    I’m glad to see the spirited engineering debate about the route of the temporary roadway near the promenade.

    Now, let’s talk about the more half-baked aspect of DOT’s plan…the idea that the temporary BQE will rise up 100s of feet into the air to go over the Brooklyn Bridge! How are they going to have the room for that grade? And will it continue at this massive height through Dumbo, or magically drop to fit under the Manhattan Bridge? Either scenario seems implausible. I suspect that engineering constraints will force DOT to use the “traditional” lane-by-lane closure approach by the bridges, which completely moots any advantage of the “innovative” approach by the promenade.

  • MaggieO

    100s of feet in the air? where does that come from? in the “innovative” plan it would already be higher up than it is currently and there aren’t 100s of feet to be made up for to get over the Bk Bridge now.
    i would imagine it would probably go up and over the Manhattan bridge too.

  • Arch Stanton

    I think that’s kind of a hyperbolic vision.
    The temporary roadway will be almost high enough to go over the Brooklyn Bridge once it passes over Columbia Heights, a little more height is all that is needed. Yes I think the intention is to keep it up high till it joins back with the existing highway after Sands street.
    I think engineering is totally feasible, however outlandish it may seem.

  • Arch Stanton

    Yes, but those are two pretty important parameters.
    Going outside the highways current right of way would mean imposing eminent domain. Significant reduction of traffic sounds good but how would it or could it even be done, and by who? To do that is probably beyond DOTs means and would need to involve other agencies.
    Oh and another biggie would be cost…

  • Cranberry Beret

    Ok not “100s” of feet. But closer to 100 feet than you suggest. (Measured above ground level at Old Fulton St.) For comparison, the Promenade is 50 feet above Furman St.

    Check this math:
    1. At Old Fulton, sign on highway overpass says clearance under westbound highway (bottom) is ~13 feet
    2. Assume overpass structure of westbound highway is ~5 feet.
    3. Eastbound highway (bottom) is at least ~14 feet above westbound – federal interstate minimum clearance for urban areas (westbound needs this clearance as it passes under eastbound).
    4. Assume overpass structure of eastbound highway is ~5 feet.
    5. Brooklyn Bridge (bottom) is at least ~14 feet above eastbound highway (same reason as above).
    6. Assume Brooklyn Bridge roadway structure is ~10 feet (check google streetview, it’s taller than the BQE overpass over Old Fulton).
    7. Assume bridge walkway is ~5 feet higher than bridge roadway at that point.
    8. Assume temporary highway needs to be ~15 feet above bridge walkway for safety reasons
    = 81 feet above Old Fulton Street.

    81 feet off the ground is really high. Like a 6-7 story building. Not sure there are column-supported bridges that high. Engineers want to weigh in?

    If the temporary roadway is at the promenade level (50 feet above Furman) near Columbia Heights/Middagh, and needs to get to 80+ feet by the time it gets to Old Fulton/Brooklyn Bridge (I estimate that’s about 1000 feet distance), it’d be a 3% grade. Truck speeds would be pretty impacted at that grade differential, no?

  • Arch Stanton

    Assuming you math is correct. a 3% grade is within the acceptable limits, which I believe is 4%.
    Columns that high are not a problem, just look at the Gowanus hump…
    Also, I doubt the city engineers didn’t think of all this already, You may not like their idea but they are not idiots.

  • Still Here

    I am not an engineer, but based upon what was said at the public meeting If you go up to the Chapin playground and consider the elevated highway will be at the same level as the Promenade, and then look north toward
    the BB following the BQE, you only need to be 12 ft above the BB eastbound roadway at that point, which is probably 50′ above Old Fulton, and totally feasible. At the meeting the DOT also said i would probably continue over the MB at about the same height.

  • Cranberry Beret

    I didn’t say they were idiots. My point was — they’re bridge engineers without any sense of politics. (That’s what I meant by half-baked.) Just because something is physically possible to build doesn’t mean it’s socially acceptable. Robert Moses plunked down the Gowanus Canal overpass into Red Hook & Sunset Park in the 1950s, but that doesn’t mean this community in this era would accept something that. A massive Gowanus Canal overpass type of structure running through the north Heights into Dumbo for 6-8 years is no more acceptable than the idea of the 6-lane elevated highway running right through the Promenade space.

    Also, even assuming the Gowanus structure is about the same height we’re talking about, that has the columns centered underneath. I think it’s less feasible to have the columns (of the necessary width to carry the load) at the outside of the lanes, in order to provide space below for the construction, without making it even wider (room they don’t have to work with).

  • Arch Stanton

    Again you revert to questioning the details of the engineering, a subject you admittedly know little about.
    There are plenty of examples of columns outside the boundaries of the structure being supported. You just need to spec an appropriate sized girder.

  • gc

    Three days later and the Mayor says he is now considering a plan similar in concept to what you describe as a “thoroughly ridiculous” solution.

  • Cranberry Beret

    Footprint: dot’s presentation was not detailed enough to determine if “in the current footprint” means taking the rest of Furman Street that’s not already under the cantilever. I took them literally and assume no, but that certainly should be on the table. As should be a consideration of using the parkland that’s currently berms, parking, maintenance, etc. Yes that would be require non-DOT action, but not nearly as onerous as eminent domain of private property.

    As for traffic-I agree reducing traffic volume to the current cantilever area defies easy solution. But that doesn’t mean maintaining current volume is necessarily more important than the environmental impact on the Heights (as one example of another competing priority).