City Comptroller Proposes New BQE Plan

The Brooklyn Eagle’s Mary Frost reports that City Comptroller Scott Stringer (photo, Thomas Good / NLN) has proposed an alternative to the City Department of Transportation’s plan to replace the Brooklyn Heights Promenade with a temporary six lane highway for a period not less than six years, or to repair the BQE lane by lane which would, according to the DOT, require closure of the Promenade for at least two years and would also lead to serious traffic backups and cause heavy diversion of traffic onto local streets, affecting not only Brooklyn Heights but also neighboring communities.

The Comptroller’s plan, according to the Eagle story, would be to convert the cantilevered portion of the BQE to a two lane truck only highway that would occupy the present lower deck of the cantilever. The upper deck, just below the Promenade, would become new parkland that would extend southward past Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens by building a deck over the trench in which the BQE runs past those neighborhoods. The Eagle story notes that both the Brooklyn Heights Association and the Cobble Hill Association have responded positively to the Comptroller’s plan, although the BHA has presented an alternative concept that remains on the table for consideration by the DOT.

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  • Nomcebo Manzini

    Just 2 major sticking points, but each one is a killer.

    (I know Mr. Stringer to be a smart and very decent man, but one MUST recognize that he’s a Manhattanite and likely is driven to work!)

    a) Mr. Stringer HOPES (yes, one could do surveys, but I’m sure they’d be pretty iffy) that mass transit will get the nod from people now driving on the BQE. At both a macro and micro level, this strikes me as very dubious – the R train has long been UNDERused, presumably because some combination of its route, its reliability and its speed make that the case. Obviously, our subways are having the equivalent of a mid-life crisis, and I just don’t think that “pouring” 100,000 new riders in would work well, if at all. Some will “try it” and go back to driving!

    b) The report “seriously” mentions that the Belt Parkway could/would relieve some of the pressure that restricting or banning passenger cars on the BQE would entail.

    Did the genius who came up with that look at a map?

    It is almost as if the NY-Boston Acela line was unavailable, and someone suggested that people get on trains heading toward Newark and points south.

    Of course, traffic now enters the BQE at many points, but start with the many who are in Bay Ridge (perhaps, having started the drive on Staten Island.) (95th Street vicinity) Way more of them are headed to Manhattan than JFK and L.I. … How on earth will the Belt Parkway “provide an alternative?”

    And one final flaw in Mr. Stringer’s proposal – he calls for co-operation among City, State and Federal officials & agencies involved in “traffic.” It sounds very flippant, but “Good luck with that!” really sums it up. Count on Cuomo to heap praise on this “forward-looking” proposal and then say that it’s too far ahead of its time and the State is strapped for cash. More urban parks? Um, not when we bring big businesses to the City and they go tax-free for 50 years.

    Needless to say, L.I. and S.I. will vote NAY en masse – their electeds, that is. But the killer is that neighborhoods like Park Slope and Downtown Brooklyn KNOW that the displaced traffic will crawl through their neighborhoods, wreaking emissions havoc, (I’m on Clinton Street very often – it’s already bumper-to-bumper during both rush hours. Now imagine that gets replicated on Atlantic Ave., Boerum Pl., Jay St. and Cadman – in our neighborhood alone.)

    What Mr. Stringer’s team missed – probably because they’ve never been there – is that Fourth Avenue would carry the current volume of the BQE at times – with fewer lanes – plus lights & pedestrians to “make life interesting.” If the well-organized drivers and neighborhood associations don’t run Mr. Stringer out of town, this proposal will fail any/all environmental impact studies.

    Many of us draw a straight line from the DOT promenade proposal to asthma and emphysema. Stringer’s alternative is classic NIMBY-ism – Columbia Heights and Hicks St. would be spared, but Fourth Avenue will take it on the chin.

    “Decking” the trench is a GREAT IDEA. When Scott runs for Mayor, it would be front and center in his commercials. It’s the rest of the proposal that isn’t ready for prime time.

  • Andrew Porter

    At least everyone is talking…

  • W.R.

    Seems like the best proposal out there by far … but I am worried it could involve a public private partnership and development.

  • Local_Montague_Man

    totally agree with this sentiment; at worst this resets the conversation with regard to “options”. (not just “innovative” vs. “traditional”)

  • Arch Stanton

    Ya’ll better stop smoking that NIMBY Dust. The BQE is an Interstate highway, the federal government will never allow the banning of passenger cars.

  • Jorale-man

    And this shows what “innovative” could truly look like – rather than a euphemistically-named throwback to the Robert Moses era.

  • Nomcebo Manzini

    Of course, every “interested party” (including conglomerations like neighborhoods) HAS TO lobby for what it deems best … and fight like the dickens against something that will – among other things – threaten their health and that of loved ones.

    But methinks we’re pretty close to “silly season,” when non-drivers (of whom I am one) are ready to put environmental concerns ahead of democracy. (And Scott’s plan probably merits a D from “greens,” because the resulting pervasive gridlock throughout Brooklyn is a very bad thing.)

    Most would stop short of “banning cars,” but I’m sure Courts everywhere point out periodically that if you – by legislation and policy changes – make it unbelievably difficult, expensive or god awful to do something, you’ve come so close to BANNING IT as to make no difference.

    It’s true that the BHA plan is imperfect, … so that leaves room for “thinking outside the box.” Right now, there’s at least some embers re the tunnel plan … and now a high visibility plan from the Comptroller.

    The latter, however, seems doomed by:
    a) inadequate “what if” planning re the many thousands of cars which will PERSIST. Sending the bulk of them onto the likes of Fourth Ave. and then Atlantic or Flatbush en route to a bridge is not so much a plan as a plague! (True, it alleviates Bklyn Hts pain, mostly, but if the worst thing about the 6 lanes where the promenade is is fumes, this is arguably even worse in that regard.)
    b) Mass transit is NOT in a position to handle 100,000 new riders – not even close. Yes, you could squeeze everybody in, but on-time performance during rush hours borders on essential, and that would take a hit, so more folks would use Uber and … terrible outcomes.
    c) As Arch pointed out, it’s one thing for Scott to call for co-operation at the State & Federal level. Expect something like “We get it that NYC thinks there are too many cars on its streets, but this plan would – on balance – make a bad situation worse.”

    Of course, drivers and NYC-haters and neighborhoods likely to get killed re air quality – Park Slope, for example – will gladly stick their knives in.

    The decking is a great idea – lucky Cobble Hill if it comes to pass. But the bulk of the idea is not well-thought out and not even close to viable.

  • Carless

    The cars will not pour onto the streets. Every time highways are removed, traffic decreases to accommodate. (And every time they’re added, more cars come to fill the void.)

    I’m a non-driver in my current life, but also owned a car the majority of my life before — I’m hardly hostile to them. Cities simply shouldn’t be built around cars in this day and age.

    More greenspace. Better use of the waterfront. More property tax revenue. And a better quality of life for everyone.

    Tear down the BQE!

  • Nomcebo Manzini

    2 choices ahead of a dubious “theory” – yours. (NY is different!)

    A) people are crazy to drive 5 mph in parts of Manh….but they DO!
    B) Subways & busses are now “could be 20 min. but could be 40.” Rich & poor have no GOOD choices. At least the sound and a.c. in one’s car can be relied on.

  • A Neighbor

    No need to ban cars. Just institute congestion pricing, like London, where it generally costs about $15 a day to drive into the city (small ‘c’) on weekdays between 7AM and 6 PM. (Manhattan garage owners charge confiscatory rates, but the city stumbles along in the same dumb way it has for decades.) Add to that, park-and-ride lots on the outskirts, located next to trains and express bus stops.

  • Arch Stanton

    “Tear down the BQE”
    Where would your food come from?