The received wisdom is that Robert Moses was determined to route the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway through Brooklyn Heights, following the route of Hicks Street, staying roughly on the course it had taken through Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill, but that heroic resistance by Heights residents convinced him to try the innovative plan (where have we heard that lately?) of building a cantilevered highway on the side of the bluff below the Heights, with a Promenade on top.
That’s all wrong, according to Thomas J. Campanella, in New York Magazine’s “Intelligencer”. Mr. Campanella, associate professor of city planning at Cornell University and historian-in-residence of the New York City Parks Department, contends that Moses never seriously intended for the BQE to follow the Hicks Street route, instead preferring a route paralleling Furman Street. Still, he was angry with the Heights because residents here enlisted the aid of Eleanor Roosevelt to oppose his plan for a Brooklyn-Battery Bridge, which they regarded as a potential eyesore, and forced him to build a tunnel instead. To get revenge, he posted surveyors with theodolites along Hicks, prompting an alarmed headline in the Brooklyn Heights Press. His other intention was to get approval for his proposal to top his cantilevered highway with a promenade that would be part of the public park system. The idea of a public promenade there had been proposed several times before, but Columbia Heights residents had always opposed it.
So, should the story of the brave Heights resistance leading to Moses’ revising his highway plan join the lovely tale of Miss Middagh’s renaming of the Fruit Streets as fake history?
Photo: Teresa Genaro