Preservation Issues

A Better Way to Fix the BQE

UPDATE
November 2018

The Conservancy has joined forces with local neighborhood organizations, elected officials, and other preservation groups to stop the Department of Transportation (DOT) from tearing down the Brooklyn Heights Promenade—and likely several historic buildings—as part of repairing the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE). Not since Robert Moses destroyed thriving neighborhoods for the Cross Bronx Expressway has the City threatened so much loss for a highway.

DOT’s current proposal would entail the construction of an enormous six-lane elevated highway that would “temporarily” soar over Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO. It would destroy the entire Brooklyn Promenade Park, including about one hundred mature trees, and the famous promenade that looks out over the harbor and the Manhattan skyline. Several historic buildings would likely be lost and the elevated highway would encroach on others in both landmarked neighborhoods.

The proposal is a throwback to a time when highways could cut through neighborhoods, demolish historic resources, pave over parkland and decimate residential areas without regard to the negative impacts. Moses would be proud.

Brooklyn Heights was the City’s first historic district and is also a National Historic Landmark. If a highway can plow through this area, the very concept of historic designation protection for any location in New York City would be put in question—and no neighborhood would be safe.

The Conservancy agrees that the highway needs to be repaired and perhaps even rebuilt, but not at the price of our parks and our neighborhoods. There are alternatives, including the one taken in almost every other highway reconstruction in the city, namely the incremental closure and reconstruction lane by lane.

The larger issue here is the need to protect our environment and our historic resources. We have not come this far to go back to the way things were before there were environmental and historic protections. For many of us it seems incredible that we are suddenly fighting this battle all over again.

Sign Petition to Save Brooklyn Heights Promenade

LINKS
Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA)
A Better Way NYC

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October, 2018

Mayor de Blasio recently announced that tearing down the landmarked Brooklyn Heights Promenade—and replacing it with a six lane highway carrying approximately 153,000 vehicles a day—is his preferred option for allowing replacement of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE). We join the Brooklyn Heights Association and area residents to oppose this option, which would decimate the City’s oldest historic district. The neighborhood is also a National Historic Landmark, the country’s highest landmark honor.

Faced with a public outcry, the Mayor later said he would consider another option. But destroying the landmarked Promenade, threatening fragile 150 year old buildings, and scattering residents should never have been an option.

A citizens group, “Save the Promenade.org” is urging people to write elected officials, sign a petition and spread awareness of the threat. They are also working to develop an alternative to create temporary traffic lanes beneath the existing highway while it undergoes reconstruction. Attorney Otis Pearsall, who helped obtain the landmark designation of Brooklyn Heights in 1965, called the area “simply the finest microcosm of early New York.” He said the Mayor’s vision would create “incessant noise, pollution and other environmental hazards, collapsing real estate values, and eviscerating its quality of life and social fabric.”

SIGN THE PETITION

The City’s Department of Transportation announced in 2016 that the BQE, built in the 1940s and 50s, needs repair and replacement. The Promenade sits above the BQE. Several options have been outlined for the $1.7 billion project and the final selection is scheduled for 2019. The Mayor caught people by surprise in announcing his choice before the process is complete.