Brooklyn Heights Blog » Government Dispatches from America's first suburb Sat, 18 May 2019 21:09:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Cuomo Names Former City Council Member Yassky His Director of State Policy Tue, 07 May 2019 03:57:12 +0000

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today that he has appointed David Yassky (photo) his new Director of State Policy. Mr. Yassky previously served as City Council Member for District 33, which includes Brooklyn Heights, from 2003 to 2009. After that he served as head of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (2010-2013) and Dean of the Pace University Law School (2014-present). In his own statement, Mr. Yassky wrote:

Our [Democratic] party sometimes seems torn between ambition and pragmatism, between focusing on the base and embracing the entire polity, and between faith in government and faith in markets. I’ve always been drawn to leaders who see these as false choices, and I’ve been fortunate to work for a few of them. I could not be more enthused to have the opportunity to do so again, and to join a team that not only thinks big, but has and will continue to do big.


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City Council Member Proposes “Bill of Rights” For Communities Affected by Film Shoots Mon, 06 May 2019 02:06:12 +0000

Mary Frost of the Brooklyn Eagle reports that City Council Member Inez Barron, whose district includes East New York and New Lots, has introduced a bill that

would create a community and media Bill of Rights, with the aim of producing clear and consistent guidelines for production companies. The bill would provide rules regarding parking, safety, sanitation and communications.

She has introduced a second bill that

would create a seven-member task force to mitigate the negative economic impact of film and television production on local communities. At least two members of this task force would be business owners working in a neighborhood affected by a high volume of film shoots. The task force would review complaints made to 311, take an economic survey, encourage temporary and permanent job opportunities and more.

Thanks to reader Andrew Porter for the tip.

Image: Mattbr [CC BY 2.0 (]

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Borough President Adams Weighs In On BQE Plans Sat, 04 May 2019 02:20:07 +0000

We recently published a letter from a Brooklyn Heights resident to various elected officials, including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, responding to what NYC Department of Transportation representative Tanvi Pandya told a neighborhood group concerning DOT’s intentions about the repair of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Borough President Adams has responded to our neighbor’s letter, as follows:

[T]hanks for reaching out and sharing the DOT comments. The plan will go through the ULURP process that includes the Borough President and Council. Both agencies are opposed to the DOT plan. We will be united to stand against it. Don’t be discouraged by the DOT words. Be encouraged by our united front against their proposal.



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DOT Representative Tells Poplar Street Residents it Remains Committed to “Temporary” Promenade Destruction; a Heights Resident Responds Tue, 16 Apr 2019 02:43:16 +0000

At a recent meeting with Poplar Street residents, the city Department of Transportation’s representative, Tanvi Pandya, made it clear that DOT isn’t giving an inch in its desire to effectively destroy our neighborhood by demolishing the Promenade for a minimum of six years (good luck with meeting that timetable) and putting a six lane highway in its place. A Heights resident has responded by sending this letter to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson:

Dear Mr. Johnson,

I am writing to you as I heard your impassioned speech at the Brooklyn Town Hall meeting at Plymouth Church and how you came out against the DOT plan to turn the Promenade into the BQE.

That being said, a meeting was held between the DOT led by Tanvi Pandya, Manager of the BQE plan for the DOT and residents of Poplar Street and here are some take-aways from the meeting you should be aware of:

1. The DOT remains committed to its Promenade Highway plan. Although at last September’s meeting the DOT itself proposed as alternatives its so-called “innovative” plan or the “traditional” method of reconstruction involving lane closures, they in fact seem to be set against anything other than a full bypass highway. (The BHA’s alternative “Parallel Highway” plan, for example, calls for employing the traditional method in short “choke-point” sections; it also appeared that BIG’s BQP Plan may call for the traditional method to be applied in areas from the Columbia Heights bridge to Sands Street.)

2. The Mayor’s expert panel may make recommendations, but the DOT will call the shots. It appears the DOT views the expert panel as a mere advisory group that will make recommendations that the DOT may or may not follow.

3. The DOT is undeterred by council members’ statements that its Promenade Highway plan will not get the required council approval. When asked why the DOT was still pushing the Promenade Highway and Brooklyn Bridge flyover given that: (i) the plan must go through the City’s ULURP process, which requires city council approval, and (ii) City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said at the Town Hall meeting that the plan would not be approved, Tanvi responded that the DOT would not be guided or limited by what a political leader said in a meeting.

This is highly disturbing and I feel as a concerned resident that response should be made as well as the DOT’s uncompromising stance be made public. Please let me know what actions you and your office will be taking.

Thank you.

We understand similar letters have been sent to City Comptroller Scott Stringer and other elected officials.

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Hearing on Proposed Brooklyn Jail Expansion Thursday Evening Wed, 10 Apr 2019 02:42:47 +0000

The Brooklyn Heights Association has advised us that Brooklyn Community Board 2 will hold a public hearing on this Thursday evening, April 11 from 5:00 to 9:00 (doors open at 4:30), at the Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School Auditorium, 357 Clermont Avenue (Enter off Greene Avenue) — see map here. The nearest subway stop, two blocks away, is the Clinton-Washington Avenue G.

According to the BHA

The hearing is the start of a 7-month land use review process (ULURP) that will culminate with a final decision by the City Council on Mayor de Blasio’s plan to close Rikers Island and construct four new jails, one in each borough except Staten Island. Targeting an eventual jail population of 5,750 detainees – down from the current level of 7,800 – each jail would house up to 1,437 detainees.

The proposed new jail, located at the site of the present jail on Atlantic Avenue near Brooklyn Heights, would be 395 feet tall according to the text supplied by the BHA, although the accompanying illustration says 450 feet. Either would be higher than currently allowed by zoning. It would have underground parking for 292 cars.

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BQE and Mega-Jail Dominate BHA Annual Meeting Fri, 01 Mar 2019 14:33:21 +0000

It was standing room only at the Founders Hall Auditorium of St. Francis College for Tuesday’s Annual Meeting of the Brooklyn Heights Association. As the Eagle’s Mary Frost reports, BHA President Martha Bakos Dietz said the BHA had submitted to the City’s Department of Transportation an alternative plan that would avoid putting a temporary six lane highway in the present location of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, and that the DOT has said it is considering this alternative, as well as “three to five others.” Ms. Dietz also announced that the BHA will hold a town hall meeting on the BQE a 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12 at Plymouth Church.

The Eagle story also reports that the City’s proposal to increase the size of the Brooklyn House of Detention, located on Atlantic Avenue a few blocks from Brooklyn Heights, to forty stories, is opposed by the BHA for its lack of context and environmental effects, as well as for the City’s failure to have, in Ms. Dietz’s words, any “meaningful engagement with the affected community.” She noted that the City wants to start its land use review process (“ULURP”) for the jail expansion next month. The BHA has urged the City to delay starting ULURP, “identify a second jail site within Brooklyn,” and consider “alternatives to incarceration” for certain inmates.

Photo: Andrew Porter

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Levin: “[T]here Has to be a Better Way” for BQE Repair Thu, 31 Jan 2019 03:42:59 +0000

City Council Member Stephen Levin was interviewed on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, and had this to say about the City Department of Transportation’s plan for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway rehabilitation:

Robert Moses’ infrastructure projects created all types of massive havoc around New York City, divided communities and really displaced thousands of people. As we’re looking towards 21st century infrastructure in New York, I think that we have to reckon with that and do what we can to address it restoratively.

I applaud the Brooklyn Heights Association and a new group called A Better Way, because they’ve really said “You know what? Let’s take a look at this, let’s get some transparency into this process…let’s build a 21st century highway.”

We need to be looking at alternatives. We need there to be some kind of real transparency to the process. [We need] a community advisory committee so that we can bring good ideas to the table.

We think that there has to be a better way to do this.

Thanks to for this information.

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Times Reports on BHA’s BQE Plan; Guarded But Positive DOT Response Fri, 25 Jan 2019 04:08:10 +0000

Today’s New York Times reports that the alternative routing for the for the temporary highway to be used during reconstruction of the portion of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway below Brooklyn Heights, proposed by the Brooklyn Heights Association has, at least in an initial form, been revealed. Scroll down in the linked Times story, past the photo of the designer, Marc Wouters, with the plan in the background, to the image of the plan in full. According to the Times story, “[t]he alternative plan is still largely an untested concept and would require extensive vetting, though the [BHA] did hire a consulting firm to do an initial review.” It continues:

Even the [BHA] says its plan is not meant to be the only solution, but is intended to expand public discussion and challenge city officials to think more creatively about repairing a six-lane highway that carries 153,000 vehicles daily.

The Times story continues:

Polly Trottenberg, the city transportation commissioner, said her agency was analyzing the association’s plan as it also continues to explore other options for rebuilding the B.Q.E. “We’re working through the technical details, but we appreciate them putting it forward,” she said.

Ms. Trottenberg said she expects to end up with four to six options, which will be weighed in public discussions as part of a thorough review process that will last about two years. “We certainly acknowledge that the two we led with [the temporary six lane highway replacing the Promenade and the lane-by-lane approach likely to divert much traffic to local streets] were extremely controversial,” she said.

The alternative proposed by the BHA would place the temporary highway over a portion of Brooklyn Bridge Park, although not any part used by the public except for parking. The Times quotes Park President Eric Landau: “We have questions and concerns about this proposal, but are involved in the discussion.”

Read the linked Times story for more pertinent information, including the reaction of one Promenade visitor.

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Simon Says: Talk to Neighbors; Examine Data; Review EIS for BQE Renovation Sat, 19 Jan 2019 03:54:14 +0000

As expected, Thursday’s “Java with Jo Anne” event, with State Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon at One Girl Cookies in DUMBO, drew a number of Brooklyn Heights residents eager to question Ms. Simon’s stance concerning the City Department of Transportation’s plan to construct a temporary six lane highway in the present location of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Simon was booed and heckled at the rally on the Promenade last Saturday for not declaring herself opposed to the DOT plan. As Mary Frost reports in the Eagle, when asked why she hadn’t opposed it as other elected officials had, Simon replied that unlike those who had spoken against the DOT plan at the promenade rally — she didn’t name them, but they are City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams — she isn’t running for Mayor. (Another elected official who spoke against the DOT plan on Saturday, Assembly Member Latrice Walker, is running for City Public Advocate.)

Simon noted that there are only two plans now under consideration: the “innovative” plan to build a temporary highway at the level of the Promenade, and a “traditional” lane-by-lane approach that would involve partially closing the BQE, would take longer, and is projected to cause seven mile long traffic jams and cause diversion of much traffic to local streets. The “traditional” approach would affect constituents of hers in Cobble Hill, where she lives. The “innovative” approach would be a benefit to residents of DUMBO and Vinegar Hill, because it would allow traffic to flow freely to the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges from the BQE, rather than being routed through their neighborhoods. The Eagle story quotes Simon: “We’re in a state of equipoise here. Both plans suck. And they suck a little differently for different people.”

Asked about the alternative plan proposed by the Brooklyn Heights Association that would route the temporary highway below the Promenade, and above the sound attenuating berms and parking lot of Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Eagle story quotes Simon as saying “the DOT Commissioner [Polly Trottenberg] was very intrigued by it” but that the Department must determine if it is feasible. Simon also noted that it could adversely affect residents of 360 Furman Street, the Pierhouse, and Pier Six (presumably meaning the soon to be completed high rises on the Pier Six uplands).

Simon also noted that it was impossible to evaluate the impacts of the proposals until an environmental assessment has been completed. According to the Eagle:

Her office will be helping to advise people working on statements for input into the environmental review process — a process she is familiar with based on many years of involvement with the Gowanus Expressway and Atlantic Yards processes.

She said that the environmental report, when released, would be very long, and deal with a number of topics. She suggested that neighborhood groups should appoint people with expertise in various areas to analyze and criticize portions of the report. She also encouraged people from different neighborhoods that might be differently affected to get together and discuss how they could find common ground.

Several attendees asked about actions that could reduce the traffic using the BQE, and thereby mitigate the possibility of traffic jams and diversions of traffic. Simon said that eliminating the outbound toll on the Verrazano Bridge would require federal legislation. Congestion pricing, which would require action by the state, is a tough sell, because legislators representing districts in the farther reaches of Brooklyn and Queens, and Nassau County have all been told by their constituents that they oppose anything that would constrain their right to commute to Manhattan by car. Simon added that surveys have shown that people living in these areas rarely if ever use their private cars to go to Manhattan. Nevertheless, they object to anything that would limit their freedom to do so. Simon said she’s convinced that “there’s a direct connection between the steering column and the male groin.” In any event, she didn’t think that congestion pricing would have a significant effect on BQE traffic.

Simon expressed disappointment over the failures of the city and the state to take earlier action on the deterioration of the cantilevered portion of the BQE. She said several successive City DOT commissioners had “kicked the can down the road.” She also reiterated her criticism of the state, expressed at the rally last Saturday, for turning its back on the issue, but added, as the Eagle story reports:

I’m talking to everybody; I’m working with the DOT to explore every alternative; I’m working with the federal elected officials; I’m working with the state elected officials; I’m hounding the state Department of Transportation. I’ve a meeting with the commissioner next week … He’s coming to see me. Which is highly unusual for the transportation commissioner to come visit a legislator. The statement is pretty clear. We’re going to do everything we can.

There was some discussion of matters unrelated to the BQE. Simon said that Democratic control of the Senate, along with the assembly and the Executive, meant that progress had been made on several fronts: voting rights, campaign finance reform, LGBTQ rights, and gun safety. She was asked if taxes accruing from marijuana legalization, if passed, might be used to improve public transit. She said there were several proposals for the use of those funds, including repairing the lives of those who had been imprisoned because of marijuana convictions.

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Hundreds Pack Promenade For Rally Against BQE Plan Sun, 13 Jan 2019 21:37:43 +0000

Brooklyn Heights Association Executive Director Peter Bray said the cold weather made him hope that 300 people would show up for yesterday’s rally on and for the Promenade, but by our estimate there was well more than that number. (Update: the New York Post estimates the turnout as “[a]bout 200″; we believe this is way on the low side. The Eagle gives an estimate of “several hundred”; scroll down in the linked story to the photo taken from above, which shows only part of the crowd.) People kept arriving well after the announced starting time of 11:00 A.M.

Mr. Bray began by announcing the BHA’s opposition to the City Department of Transportation’s preferred alternative of building a temporary six lane highway that would replace the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for a period of at least six years while reconstruction of the cantilevered portion of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway below proceeds. Mayor De Blasio has expressed his support for this plan, but according to City Council Member Stephen Levin later partially walked back that statement by saying he considers an alternative plan proposed by the BHA, to run the temporary highway over the berms on the east edge of Brooklyn Bridge Park, to be “worth exploring.”
IMG_2221The first elected official to speak was City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who in December sent a letter to the Mayor and to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, faulting them for not consulting with affected communities and not considering alternative plans. He said the DOT plan fails to consider evolving trends in transportation, instead perpetuating a 1950s Robert Moses solution. He compared it to “buying the drapes before you buy the house.”
IMG_2219Among the elected officials present were State Senator Brian Kavanagh (in photo above, with sunglasses) and Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon (in blue cap, next to Kavanagh). In her remarks, Ms. Simon took the state to task for having taken money appropriated for a study of the BQE rehabilitation and re-allocated it to the Tappan Zee (now Governor Mario M. Cuomo) Bridge. She was loudly heckled when she would not unequivocally state her opposition to the DOT proposal. Ms. Simon has invited all to have “Java with Jo Anne” and discuss any community concerns with her this Thursday morning, January 17, from 8:30 to 10:30, at One Girl Cookies, 33 Main Street (between Plymouth and Water) in DUMBO.
IMG_2228 Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (photo above, in baseball cap) received ethusiastic applause and cheers when he decalred, “I am an environmentalist” and stated his opposition to the DOT proposal. Representatives from the offices of Mr. Levin, and of Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez were present and spoke.

One elected official whose district does not include any part of Brooklyn Heights or nearby neighborhoods spoke in opposition to the DOT proposal. This was State Assembly Member Latrice Walker, whose district includes parts of Brownsville, where Ms. Walker grew up and still lives, and Stuyvesant Heights. She recalled childhood memories of visiting the Promenade, and said that, as an asthma victim, she opposed any plan likely to worsen air pollution.

Several representatives of local community groups also spoke. Hillary Jager, speaking for A Better Way NYC, said the group not only opposes the DOT plan, but also any plan that would add congestion to local streets. Toba Potosky, Board President of Cadman Towers, Inc., expressed strong opposition to the DOT proposal on environmental grounds.

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Recent Developments on BQE Controversy Sat, 22 Dec 2018 04:20:47 +0000

There have been several recent developments concerning the plan to repair the cantilevered portion of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway that lies below Brooklyn Heights and its Promenade, including the City Department of Transportation’s “innovative” proposal to replace the Promenade with a six lane highway while the two levels of the BQE below are repaired. This would cause complete loss of the use of the Promenade for a period the DOT estimates as six years and, according to public health expert Laurie Garrett, as reported by Mary Frost in the Eagle, would cause dangerous increases in airborne pollutant levels in the Heights.

More developments are summarized very well in another Mary Frost Eagle story. City Comptroller Scott Stringer has sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. In it, he faulted DOT because it:

has failed to engage the surrounding neighborhoods in a constructive manner, has not been sufficiently transparent regarding alternatives to the current project, and has “eliminated several alternatives from consideration” in a cursory manner

The Comptroller also noted in his letter that the DOT proposal fails to recognize:

other city initiatives and goals, including: $100 million in freight-rail improvements that would reduce truck traffic on the BQE; congestion pricing, which would also reduce traffic on the BQE; and the city’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gases.

Ms. Frost’s story also includes reactions from local elected officials: Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, Councilmember Stephen Levin, state Sen. Brian Kavanagh, and U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez. These officials have, understandably, been equivocal about efforts to save the Promenade from the “innovative” plan, because their constituencies include people who could be adversely affected by any major diversion of traffic from the BQE during repairs. Ms. Frost received a statement from these officials, noting “that they have met with members of A Better Way NYC [an organization opposed to the “innovative” plan] in addition to holding numerous meetings with local constituents and government officials.” Ms. Frost goes on to state:

They released an update on their progress on Friday, saying that both of the options the city has proposed so far “would have significant and profoundly problematic impacts on the communities we represent,” and that all “plausible alternatives” need to be fully considered before the project receives federal, state and city approval.

Photo: Teresa Genaro

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Public Advocate Candidates at First Unitarian This Evening Tue, 18 Dec 2018 20:14:16 +0000

Apologies for the late notice. The Brooklyn Heights Association is sponsoring a forum for candidates for the office of New York City’s Public Advocate this evening, Tuesday, December 18, at the First Unitarian Church, Pierrepont Street and Monroe Place. According to the BHA, “[d]oors will open at 6:30pm and the discussion will begin at 7pm. Because the organizers are expecting seventeen candidates to be present and the meeting has a two hour limit, there will be not be any opportunity to have questions from the audience.”

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Why Does New York Make It So Hard to Vote? Find Out Tonight! Tue, 27 Nov 2018 15:21:55 +0000 Ever wonder why New York makes it so hard to vote?* Do you think automatic voter registration just makes common sense? Do you dream of the day you can vote by mail in your sweatpants? Voting Rights/Reform groups Let NY Vote and Common Cause are hosting a free “People’s Hearing” on election reform tonight at 7pm at the First Unitarian Congregational Society on Pierrepont street. They are encouraging people to come by and share their opinions (and you know you have opinions). City Council Member Jumaane Williams is expected to make an appearance. It’s unclear what the end result of this meeting is supposed to be, but at least you can have a good shout!

Also, Let NY Vote is also asking for people to share their 2018 election day stories with them.



*The answer is: because they don’t want you to.

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BHA Presents Alternative BQE Plan to DOT Sat, 24 Nov 2018 04:22:32 +0000

As reported by the Eagle’s Mary Frost, representatives of the Brooklyn Heights Association met with Polly Trottenberg, Commissioner of the City’s Department of Transportation, and DOT engineers, to urge DOT to consider alternatives to a plan that would close the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for a minimum of six years and replace it with a six lane elevated highway. The BHA presented an “alternative plan conceived by Marc Wouters Studios, a Heights-based architect-urban planning firm. The Wouters design would move traffic to a temporary two-level structure west of the existing triple cantilever, as opposed to DOT’s six-lane highway on the Promenade.”

The Eagle story quotes BHA Executive Director Peter Bray as saying Commissioner Trottenberg

was receptive to having her engineers analyze Marc’s concept and for a later meeting with them to enable us to go into the technical aspects of the alternative proposal — what we call the Parallel Highway vs. DOT’s Promenade Highway. We anticipate that that meeting will occur once DOT has done a preliminary analysis.

According to the Eagle story, local elected officials, including State Senator Brian Kavanagh, Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon, City Council Member Stephen Levin, and Borough President Eric Adams have shown interest in this matter.

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BHA to Meet With DOT Commissioner on BQE – Promenade Issue Mon, 12 Nov 2018 02:17:01 +0000

The Brooklyn Heights Association has announced that they have scheduled a meeting with City Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and DOT engineers on Monday, November 19 at which BHA “will press DOT to abandon the 6-lane highway on the Promenade in favor of a better approach to rebuilding the BQE.”

The BHA has retained engineering consultants to evaluate alternatives to DOT’s plan and assess ways to reduce traffic on the BQE during the construction period. Their expertise will greatly assist the BHA in showing DOT that viable alternatives exist and warrant its consideration.

The change in control of the State Senate following last week’s election, the BHA notes, may

pave the way for passage of a long-delayed congestion pricing plan that would place tolls on the East River crossings. This measure would reduce traffic on the BQE, making alternative construction approaches more feasible and mitigating their environmental impacts. With this new political opportunity, the BHA will advocate for the passage of this congestion pricing plan.

Posters (photo) and buttons are available for free at the Brooklyn Women’s Exchange, 55 Pierrepont Street, and at the Montague Key Food. To help finance the BHA’s efforts to save the Promenade, you may donate to their BQE Fund here. You don’t have to be a BHA member to contribute.

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Vote on Tuesday! Mon, 05 Nov 2018 03:25:28 +0000

In case you hadn’t heard, this Tuesday, November 6 is a biggie: the 2018 midterm elections. A U.S. Senate seat is on the ballot. So are state offices, including Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller, along with State Senator and Assembly Member. Various local judges are on the ballot as well. There are also ballot issues concerning proposed changes to the City’s charter. You can get the details here. The linked site will also give you the location of your polling place. Polls are open from 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM.

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BHA Update on BQE; “Save the Promenade” is now “A Better Way NYC” Fri, 02 Nov 2018 02:05:24 +0000

The Brooklyn Heights Association has sent us an update on efforts to have the City’s Department of Transportation to pursue alternatives to replacing the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for a period of at least six years with a temporary elevated six lane highway carrying heavy truck and auto traffic. The BHA has worked with Save the Promenade, now renamed A Better Way NYC, to “submit Freedom of Information Act (FOIL) Requests to DOT this week to gain access to information that will help us persuade the City that the Promenade Highway makes no sense and alternatives can be devised that will be far preferable.” A meeting scheduled between the BHA and DOT has been postponed to allow DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and local elected officials to attend. “The BHA also met with [State] Senator [Brian] Kavanagh and Assemblymember [Jo Anne] Simon last week, and Councilmember [Stephen] Levin the week before, to apprise them of our activities, discuss alternative solutions, and explore what role the State and other agencies can and should play.”

The BHA is “looking for and speaking with various technical consultants who can contribute to our efforts to evaluate other options and to assist in the analysis of environmental concerns.” If you wish to assist in this effort, as well as in The BHA’s overall campaign to oppose the highway, you may donate to the BHA’s BQE Fund here. You do not have to be a BHA member to donate.

The BHA has made posters opposing the highway plan which are free and available at the Brooklyn Women’s Exchange, 55 Pierrepont Street. In addition to the extensive media coverage this issue has already received, there will be a story in the Wall Street Journal on November 6.

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Mayor de Blasio Open to Alternative BQE Plan Levin Says “Worth Exploring” Mon, 22 Oct 2018 02:24:33 +0000

The New York Post reports that City Council Member Stephen Levin (photo) has called a proposal to temporarily re-route the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway over the berms on the eastern edge of Brooklyn Bridge Park during reconstruction of the cantilevered portion under Brooklyn Heights, instead of putting it on an elevated six lane highway that would replace the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for at least six years, “definitely worth exploring” The same Post story quotes Mayor de Blasio as saying that plan “is worth considering.”

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BHA: de Blasio “Blindsided” Brooklyn Heights on BQE Sun, 14 Oct 2018 23:43:46 +0000

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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Mayor Prefers Replacing Promenade With Highway During BQE Reconstruction Sat, 13 Oct 2018 02:40:00 +0000

The Brooklyn Paper reports that Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed a preference for the City Department of Transportation’s “innovative” plan that would close the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for at least six years and replace it with a temporary six lane highway that would render some residences virtually uninhabitable. The Brooklyn Paper story quotes the Mayor:

It will definitely have a big impact, but I think it’s the way to address the bigger problem once and for all, and as quickly as we can … It’s a painful approach, it will definitely create a lot of inconvenience for people — I don’t want to underestimate what impact it would have.

The Mayor is also quoted as saying the “traditional” option of rebuilding the BQE in segments while keeping some lanes open and closing portions of the Promenade in order would divert too much traffic to local streets. He didn’t mention any other options, still on the table, such as a tunnel, or some that could reduce truck traffic and allow more time for reconstruction, such as putting two way tolls on the Verrazano Bridge, or tolls on the East River Bridges, or congestion pricing (which would require federal, in the case of Verrazano tolls, or otherwise state cooperation). The Mayor described replacing the Promenade with a highway as “kind of the pull-the-band-aid off approach.” A band-aid that takes six years or more to pull off?

Photo: By Kevin Case from Bronx, NY, USA (Bill de Blasio) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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City Will Consider Options for BQE Reconstruction Sun, 30 Sep 2018 18:30:39 +0000

A large crowd assembled for Thursday evening’s meeting at which City Department of Transportation officials discussed plans for the reconstruction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway below Brooklyn Heights. I took the photo some minutes before the program began; by the time it did there were even more standing in the back or along the sides, and some were turned away because of lack of space. The size of the crowd, almost all of whom made the trek from the Heights to Myrtle Avenue just beyond the Flatbush Avenue Extension, was occasioned by the DOT’s recent announcement of an “innovative” plan to build a temporary elevated highway that would replace the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for six years and put highway traffic, including many trucks, close to residences and playgrounds. These are my takeaways from the meeting; for other accounts see The Brooklyn Paper and Curbed.

Nothing is settled. DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said that this meeting was only the first of many public events to be held as part of the environmental review process that will continue from now until 2020, when the request for proposals to design and rebuild the BQE will be issued. While the DOT’s Chief Engineer, Robert Collyer, stated his preference for the “innovative” plan, he allowed that the decision on how to proceed would be made as a result of the environmental assessment. Even the tunnel option is still a conceivable outcome, although DOT’s Senior Program Manager Tanvi Pandya noted that the only tunnel alignment the DOT considers feasible would place its northern entrance and exit north of both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. This means that traffic to and from these bridges would still have to use the present BQE alignment, or else be routed over local streets. Other means of reducing the traffic burden on the BQE, such as putting tolls on the East River bridges and effecting congestion pricing in Manhattan, would require cooperation at the state level. State Senator Brian Kavanagh, addressing the meeting, said he would support whatever state actions were necessary. Any action with regard to the Verazzano Bridge tolls would require federal approval.

The temporary highway may be re-routed over part of Brooklyn Bridge Park. This was suggested by a local resident during the question and answer period, and was also alluded to by City Council Member Steve Levin, who noted in his remarks at the meeting, “there are these berms ….” The Wall Street Journal reports that, after the meeting, Commissioner Trottenberg expressed willingness to consider this option.

No matter what, the Promenade must be rebuilt. In her opening remarks, Commissioner Trottenberg said that like many of Robert Moses’s structures, the cantilevered portion of the BQE “was not built to last.” Ms. Pandya noted that the Promenade is part of this “not built to last” structure and that, while it doesn’t bear the weight burden that the BQE lanes below do, it is still structurally unsound. The question is whether the rebuilding of the Promenade will be done in one fell swoop (and, under the “innovative” plan, following a six year closure) or in segments, allowing access to parts of the Promenade while work is done on others.

Direct access from Columbia Heights to DUMBO, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Squibb Park, and Hillside Dog Park will be interrupted. This is because the bridge that carries Columbia Heights over the BQE must be removed during the reconstruction. This will also entail temporary loss of the Harry Chapin Playground, which sits atop that bridge. Asked about the effect of the “innovative” plan on the Pierrepont Playground, which would abut the temporary elevated highway, Ms. Pandya said the playground would be all right. There were also assurances that, apart from the access issue, Hillside Dog Park would not be affected.

Existing BQE environmental problems may not be cured. During the question and answer period, Willowtown Association member Martin Hale said he had measured noise levels from BQE traffic at Adam Yauch Park, near his home, and found they sometimes exceeded eighty decibels. He said the federal regulations governing environmental assessments included provisions allowing the grandfathering of pre-existing conditions or those that cannot be mitigated by technically available means, and asked if the DOT would rely on these. Mr. Collyer said they would not rely on them with respect to the construction work, and would do their best to mitigate any noise and air quality problems. However, no assurance was given that, following completion of the project, pre-existing environmental problems would be alleviated.

Update: The BHA has now announced its opposition to the “innovative” proposal and urged the DOT to “work with the community to identify and evaluate other options that do not prioritize motorists at the complete expense of residents.” The BHA has yet to take a position. The first speaker during the question and answer period was Peter Bray, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Heights Association. He began by comparing the available options to the circles of Dante’s Inferno, an analogy with which Commissioner Trottenberg agreed. Mr. Bray said he had heard from many Heights residents, all of whom were strongly opposed to the elevated highway proposal. He said the BHA “will listen to all alternatives and be responsible to the community.” He also noted concerns that the city would run short of money needed to complete the restoration of the Promenade. Commissioner Trottenberg replied that it’s not up to DOT which option to choose, that there are “many stakeholders” as well as those directly affected by the elevated highway proposal, and that the “Design/Build” procedure authorized by the state for the project meant that the contractor would agree to a firm price. Ms. Pandya added that bonds and insurance would cover the contractor’s obligations.

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Reminder: Meeting Thursday Evening on BQE Repairs and Promenade Wed, 26 Sep 2018 03:28:27 +0000

The Brooklyn Heights Association has details on the Update meeting on BQE Rehabilitation, a project that could include closing the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for years and building a temporary six lane highway that would bring traffic to the level of Heights residences. Alternatively, it could cause major diversions of truck and car traffic to local streets.

The meeting will be held at the National Grid Auditorium, on the second floor of One Metrotech Center (enter from Jay Street). Presentations begin at 6:30 and ends at 8:30, but doors open at 5:30; best to get there early if you want a good seat. The presentations by officials will be followed by time for comments from the audience. The meeting location is ADA accessible.

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Vote Tomorrow Wed, 12 Sep 2018 12:35:03 +0000

Tomorrow, Thursday, September 13, is the statewide primary election to choose candidates to run in the November general election for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and other state offices. Polls are open from 6:00 AM until 9:00 PM. By entering your address at this website, you can see who is on the ballot in your location for each office, with further links to the candidates’ own websites and other sources of information. It will also give you the location of your polling place.

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Levin Has Big Kitty For Local Projects; Needs Your Advice Wed, 05 Sep 2018 02:53:56 +0000

Our feline friendly City Council Member Stephen Levin has $1.5 million for capital projects and (this is new) $20,000 for expense funding, all to be distributed in accordance with the wishes of constituents in the 33rd Council District (which includes Brooklyn Heights). There will be two Neighborhood Assemblies in the Heights — one at the Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont Street (corner of Clinton) on Wednesday, September 12 from 6:30 to 8:00 PM; and one at St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street (between Clinton and Court) on Tuesday, October 16, also from 6:30 to 8:00 PM — at which you may present or discuss ideas. You may also submit suggestions here. You may also contact Mr. Levin’s Participatory Budgeting Director, Benjamin Solotaire, at or by phone at 718-875-5200.

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Design/Build for BQE Renovation Approved Tue, 03 Apr 2018 02:20:40 +0000

The Brooklyn Heights Association has let us know that the state budget, passed by the legislature and approved by Governor Cuomo on Friday, includes approval for the use of a design/build procedure for the renovation of the crumbling Brooklyn Queens Expressway below Brooklyn Heights. As the BHA noted:

This victory is the culmination of months of community effort, led by the BHA, to urge the legislature to enact a measure whose passage failed during the past two years. Had it not passed now, DOT would have proceeded with a Design-Bid-Build approach, which would have cost $113 million more to complete the BQE project and led to trucks being diverted onto local Brooklyn streets in 2026 due to the extended project timeframe.

The BHA thanked State Senator Brian Kavanagh and Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon (whose office also advised us of the approval) for their efforts to secure passage, along with Governor Cuomo for his support. It also expressed gratitude to the local residents who demonstrated their support.

In related news, the BHA has announced that it will not appeal the New York Supreme Court’s decision to allow construction of the two residential towers near Pier Six in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

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Cuomo Counsel: Ask and You Shall Receive Design/Build for BQE Fri, 09 Mar 2018 04:03:09 +0000

The Daily News reports that Alphonso David, counsel to Governor Andrew Cuomo, in a letter to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, has said that the Governor is eager to sponsor approval of a procedure called “design/build” for the needed reconstruction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway below Brooklyn Heights. Failure to provide such authorization would greatly extend the length of time to complete the project, and its expense. It could also cause the diversion of truck and other traffic to Brooklyn Heights streets.

So, what’s the problem with getting the Governor and the Legislature to approve this? According to David’s letter, it’s that the City has bundled its request for BQE design/build with design/build requests for two other projects: building new jails to replace Rikers and renovation of NYCHA housing. If each were presented individually, David wrote, the Governor would support them, and they would have a better chance of legislative approval.

Why, then does the Governor want projects, all of which he supports, presented à la carte instead of table d’hôte? For the Governor, I suspect, it’s to emphasize his and the legislature’s stranglehold on almost all city decisions, forcing the mayor and council to get state approval on virtually everything of substance. For the legislators, I believe, it’s to allow more scope for “horse trading”; e.g. “I’ll vote for your design/build on the BQE provided you vote for funding for my Waffle Iron Museum.”

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NYC DOT Engineer Says Keeping Traffic Off Brooklyn Heights Streets High Priority Thu, 08 Mar 2018 03:02:37 +0000

The Eagle’s Mary Frost has an excellent report on last week’s Brooklyn Heights Association Annual Meeting. Here are my takeaways from the meeting:

1. The featured speaker, DOT Deputy Commissioner Robert Collyer (photo) said at least twice that a primary DOT concern is keeping traffic off Brooklyn Heights streets during the BQE renovation.

2. Mr. Collyer said that DOT is considering creating alternate routes for traffic during the BQE project that wouldn’t affect the Heights or other residential areas.

3. One of the objectives of the BQE project, according to Collyer, is to “improve [vertical] clearances” on the highway. Some residents asked if this would necessitate raising the BQE roadways, thereby affecting the Promenade. Mr. Collyer said it would not, and that the preservation of the Promenade was of vital concern.

4. When asked about the proposal to create an entrance to Brooklyn Bridge Park from Montague Street, the BHA took no position for or against. Mr. Collyer also remained neutral, but noted the long drop from Montague to the level of the Park and that any entrance/exit would have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

5. The BHA is considering options following the court decision allowing construction to proceed on the two high rise residential towers near Pier Six in Brooklyn Bridge Park, including a possible appeal.

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BQE Reconstruction & “Design/Build” is Focus of Brooklyn Heights Association’s Annual Meeting This Wednesday Tue, 27 Feb 2018 05:19:31 +0000

The Brooklyn Heights Association will hold their Annual Meeting this Wednesday, February 28th from 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm at St. Francis College Founders Hall, 180 Remsen Street.  Robert Collyer, NYC Department of Transportation’s Deputy Commissioner and Chief Bridge Officer, will make a presentation on the BQE rehabilitation project with a Q&A and refreshments to follow.  The meeting is open to the public.

So what is design-build and why is it important for this project? As the BHA describes it on their detailed website, design-build would shave two years off of the desperately needed roadway rehab by skipping an intermediate bidding process and awarding the project to a single entity.  They claim that if the reconstruction of the BQE is not completed by 2026, which can only be achieved if the design-build process is utilized, then 16,000 trucks PER DAY could be re-routed through the neighborhood via Court Street (see map).

So what can you do?  1) Attend the meeting this Wednesday night to learn more.

2) Sign this petition, share it with friends via social media and email:

3) In early February, the BHA held a rally on the Promenade with local officials. They are sponsoring a trip to Albany to meet with lawmakers on March 6th.  SIGN UP HERE

4) Visit the BHA’s BQE Reconstruction Project webpage for more information on how to write to your legislators and additional info on public meetings and calls for community feedback.

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What’s Holding Up Approval Of Design/Build For The BQE? Wed, 14 Feb 2018 04:31:23 +0000

Last June we noted here that a procedure called “design/build”, in which the same contractors bid on both the design and construction aspects of a project, could greatly shorten the time necessary to do the vital reconstruction and repair work on the cantilevered portion of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, beneath Brooklyn Heights and the Promenade. In December we observed that, without design/build, the project could be delayed beyond a point at which it would be necessary to divert trucks from this stretch of the highway onto Brooklyn Heights streets.

The Brooklyn Heights Association has been very active in the effort to get design/build approved. Last Friday morning there was a demonstration (photo) sponsored by State Senator Brian Flanagan and Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, held at the Montague Street entrance to the Promenade. Design/build will also be the principal topic of the BHA’s Annual Meeting, to be held on Wednesday, February 28 at Founders Hall, St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, from 7:00 to 9:00 PM. Finally, the BHA has chartered a bus to take concerned residents to Albany on Tuesday, March 6, to meet with legislators whose approval is crucial to the project. Seats are limited, so you should register here as soon as possble, or call 718-858-9193. Although the BHA’s maim page on the BQE reconstruction says there is no charge for the event, the registration page linked above requires a $30 “event fee.” Perhaps this can be avoided by using the phone option.

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Vacant Retail Spaces: Why? What, If Anything, Can Be Done? Sun, 26 Nov 2017 00:38:55 +0000

You would have to have been in Brooklyn Heights for over five years to remember when the last tenant, Starbucks, moved out of 112 Montague Street (photo) to a smaller space a block away. Since then, apart from being used as storage space for Lassen & Hennigs next door, the space has lain fallow. While there are no similar long-term vacancies on Montague (well; there’s the Bossert, which is not quite vacant because of a few holdover tenants, but that’s another story), there are others not far away.

Why? Greedy landlords? Bricks-and-mortar retail is dying because of the internet? Daniel Roberts in The Bridge has examined the reasons, and finds many in addtion to those just mentioned. A tight market for financing, both for real estate and for start-up businesses is one. Complexities of property ownership–I once read of a building in, as I recall, DUMBO, that was inherited jointly by, I think, five siblings, who could never agree on what to do with it–is another. As for solutions to the problem, many have been proposed, but nothing seems to be a priority for the present city administration.

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