Preservation Issues

City to Rethink Promenade Plans After Opposition

UPDATE
March 2019

City transportation officials have gone back to the drawing board to figure out how to repair the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Their about face occurred after widespread opposition to an initial plan only Robert Moses could love. Now three separate alternatives have been proposed that leave the Brooklyn Heights Promenade in place.

The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) initial plan called for replacing the Promenade Park with a “temporary” six-lane highway putting rumbling cars and trucks next to landmark 19th century homes. The Conservancy joined community groups and preservation and planning colleagues in opposition.

Among the alternatives is a plan proposed by the Brooklyn Heights Association and local architect Marc Wouters that calls for sending expressway traffic on a temporary two-tiered roadway alongside the current highway. NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer’s plan calls for more parkland over the highway, rebuilding it lane by lane and allowing only truck traffic during the rebuilding. An attractive third plan submitted by Mark Baker calls for extending Brooklyn Bridge Park over the new highway built on grade alongside the park.

DOT officials told community leaders that they will hold a public hearing to review a new plan, perhaps in six months. This all is a far cry from the earlier plan that the Mayor prematurely endorsed.

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Opponents Developing Better Alternatives to Promenade Plan
January 2019

Momentum continues to grow against the City’s plan to destroy the landmarked Brooklyn Heights Promenade and threaten five thriving historic districts as part of repairing the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

Council Member Steve Levin told WNYC Radio this past Monday: “We need to be looking at alternatives. We need some real transparency to the process.” Levin also praised the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) and A Better Way for trying to develop an alternative. He joins City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who already spoke against the city’s plans.

Opponents are developing alternatives. Those efforts were highlighted in a Times story last Thursday describing BHA’s plan. It calls for a temporary, two-tiered roadway alongside stretches of the B.Q.E. in a “parallel bypass” method. This would allow the Promenade to remain open during much of the construction and move vehicles on the B.Q.E. farther away from homes. A Better Way is engaging transportation experts to “find an innovative solution.”

The Conservancy has dubbed the City’s proposal “Robert Moses revisited.” Two new videos from Brooklyn resident Andrew Carr describe the history of the highway and remind us that Moses did indeed try to promote an earlier, similarly destructive plan.

VIDEOS BY ANDREW CARRhttp://www.BrooklynArtSchool.org

LINKS
Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA)
A Better Way NYC
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A Better Way to Fix the BQE
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
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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.