Carlo Scissura, chair of the committee appointed by Mayor de Blasio to study the reconstruction of the cantilevered portion of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway below Brooklyn Heights, was the featured speaker at this evening’s meeting of the Independent Neighborhood Democrats. This was not widely publicized until this morning, when Toba Potosky alerted some of us — many thanks, Toba — and my BHB colleague SongBirdNYC responded quickly with a post, so many thanks to her.
Because of the late notice, perhaps only a quarter or less of the seats in the St. Francis College auditorium were filled. Mr. Scissura began by describing how his committee came into being, noting the community reaction to the initial plans put forward by the DOT. Of the DOT, he, a Brooklynite, said, “I think they didn’t know they were dealing with Brooklyn.” He also noted that Mayor de Blasio is a Brooklynite, which he said led him to appoint the committee. He ignored, or glossed over, the fact that the Mayor initially endorsed DOT’s “innovative” proposal that would replace the Brooklyn Heights Promenade with a six lane temporary highway for a period of at least six years, which the Mayor compared to “pulling off a bandage.”
Mr. Scissura then said the committee’s charge was to determine “what can be built, but also what can the community and elected officials support.” He said any solution must “preserve the historical importance of the [Brooklyn Heights] Promenade” and also preserve the integrity of Brooklyn Bridge Park. He also said “Brooklyn Heights will bear the brunt of pain” during the BQE reconstruction, and that the Promenade “needs to be repaired and replaced” as part of the BQE reconstruction.
He added that what happens on this stretch of the BQE also depends on what happens elsewhere on the local highway system, including the Gowanus Expressway and the BQE “trench” between Cobble Hill and the Columbia Street district. He noted that the Atlantic Avenue entrance to the BQE is especially dangerous. More importantly, he noted the as yet unknown effects of such changes as the possible re-imposition of two way tolls on the Verrazano Bridge and congestion pricing in Manhattan, both of which he said are likely to reduce BQE traffic. He said he was “intrigued” by the possibility of reducing the cantilevered portion of the BQE from three lanes in each direction to two.
The Committee will hold more meetings with community groups and interested parties, beginning with one with the Brooklyn Heights Association and other local community groups next week. We will try to keep you posted on dates, times, and locations.