Brooklyn Heights Association Annual Meeting 2023 Wrap-up

The Brooklyn Heights Association Annual Meeting Extravaganza And Raffle for 2023 kicked off Wednesday night in a cozy 3rd floor church at Packer Collegiate Institute, an event this correspondent hadn’t attended in years (remember when we used to liveblog/tweet this thing?).

Most of the excitement occurred in the opening moments of the BHA President Koren Volk‘s remarks, where she voiced the BHA’s full-throated support of the “4 lanes or less” proposal. While the BHA applauds the Eric Adams administration for wanting to think ahead and come up with a long term vision for the only section of the BQE that the city has control over (the rest is the responsibility of NY State), the BHA wants a bold solution for a project that’s going to take 10-15 years to complete. And that solution includes 4 lanes or less, cover those lanes as much as possible, and a seat at the state-level table to discuss the other sections of the BQE. The president talked about the BHA’s involvement with the Coalition for the BQE Transformation — a coalition of a growing number of neighborhood groups trying to shape the future of the expressway. Good luck! They will be going up against the former Brooklyn Democratic boss Frank Seddio, and his coalition of Brooklyn groups fighting to expand or at least keep the BQE at 6 lanes.

After the loud applause in support, the BHA president went over the other highlights of the past year — Egg Hunt! Spring day of service! Halloween parade! Refreshed PS8 teacher’s lounge! Designer Show House! — and upcoming events — Spring day of service on May 7th! Bringing back walking tours! Explore ways to improve streets! — but this wasn’t as exciting as rattling sabers about the BQE. She touted BHA’s involvement with the recent mini-revival of Montague Street, with an obligatory photo of a line outside of the L’Appartement 4F bakery (with no BQE in sight).

There was the thanking of the board of governors (but no thanks to the BQE), and a brief overview of the BHA’s financials by Susan Restler.

The heartwarming moment of the evening was The Community Service Awards (the very antithesis of the BQE), presented by everybody’s favorite recently-retired local WNET 13 personality Tom Stewart. The first award was given to Promenade gardener (and a “BHB Ten” notable person in 2022Anil Chandrakumar, for his excellent work on the gardens around the Promenade. The next award was given to the “New” Friends of Hillside Dog Park association, for all their work in revitalizing the dog park in recent years. Sadly, none of the dogs honored with the award were in attendance.

The evening wrapped up with an interesting but fairly uneventful and BQE-free panel discussion on “Rethinking the Public Realm”, featuring Van Alen director Andrew Brown, Jenna Miller of the NYC Public Design Commission, Jeffrey LeFrancois of the Meatpacking District’s BID, and moderated by architect Susannah Drake. Much of the discussion seemed to be about how difficult it is to work with the city and state governments to get any project done, no matter how small it may be. (Much easier to ram a 6 lane highway through the neighborhood, though). The BHA opted against live questions in favor of pre-submitted, written down questions, which kept the drama and excitement to a minimum. There was the obligatory curmudgeon asking if it would be nicer to tear down all the restaurant street spaces and put back all the free, taxpayer-sponsored parking spots (sounds like the BQE on most days). When asked what specifically the participants would do to improve Brooklyn Heights, we liked Andrew’s idea of small, pop-up or “night” markets in either the open spaces or vacant storefronts (or maybe even a cantilevered expressway), but we think we were in the minority there.

Oh, and the winner of the raffle was ticket 2401622! Enjoy the local-business-sponsored swag, 2401622!

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  • Mike Suko

    Great summary, Qfwfq – informative and a fun read, too.

    I guess you can’t be an adult in 2023 without being at least a little cynical, and I definitely share your – I admit it can be read differently than that – “Good luck, BHA, in your fight against a political machine giving drivers in places like S.I. and Bay Ridge an influential voice favoring 6 or more lanes.”

    How DOES the BHA – more generally, people who live in Brooklyn Heights – get a “seat at the table” – even one listened to when the Atlantic-to-Sands section is “planned” for the next 50-100 years? It’s not clear whether a unified group of electeds (a Congresswoman, 2 serving us in Albany and Lincoln Restler) can buck the Mayor on this. Worse, while the DOT should NOT have as its motto “build, baby, build,” there’s both history and plenty of recent evidence that that IS its mantra.

    There was a comment on this blog in the last day or 2 expressing optimism about “4 lanes” having so much logic behind it that it was likely to prevail, but I’m much less sanguine. I wonder if “congestion pricing” will ever come to pass. In its absence – and what could be protacted lawsuits challenging it haven’t even started – and given that public transp. really seems to have something like “long covid,” I’m honestly not certain what would be best for the City if the decision-makers could be totally “objective.”

    “Covering them as much as possible” – per the BHA proposal – DOES sound great – and a tunnel sounds even better, but X extra years of construction and $Y billion argue the other way. Plus, if one views gas-powered vehicles as en route to extinction, both noise and pollution become much reduced problems.

  • Andrew Porter

    Some photos, here and in reply:

    Community Service Award to Anil Chandrakumar:

  • Andrew Porter

    Tom Stewart gives awards to Friends of Hillside Dog Park Association:

  • Andrew Porter

    “Rethinking the Public Realm”, with Andrew Brown, Jenna Miller, Jeffrey LeFrancois, Susannah Drake:

  • Andrew Porter
  • Andrew Porter
  • Andrew Porter

    Outside the meeting, ornate architecture of Packer in mahogany and brass:

  • Jorale-man

    It would be nice if the BHA had a Covid-safe Zoom option for those wanting to attend these meetings. I don’t see many masks (or obviously, social distancing) in Andrew’s photos but it would be a good community service to hear what’s happening in the ‘hood.

  • B.

    “Much easier to ram a six-lane highway through the neighborhood, though.”

    There have been three lanes heading towards Queens and three lanes towards Bay Ridge from the get-go. You might not like people from Bay Ridge or Staten Islanders, but they use the roads. Better to reinforce the BQE with trusses and columns and get on with other business. Doing so could give those living in Brooklyn Heights a wider promenade.

    Still better: Put tolls on all the East River crossings from Brooklyn into Manhattan. Why those crossing the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg Bridges should be privileged with free rides is beyond me. Doing so would cut down on traffic.