BQE fix could connect disjointed Columbia Street park

BQE fix could connect disjointed Columbia Street park
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This park is coming together!

The city wants to conjoin two disconnected swaths of green space that make up a Columbia Street Waterfront District park as part of its reconstruction of the crumbling Brooklyn Queens-Expressway, which has on- and off-ramps running through the play area, a Department of Transportation project manager in charge of the long-awaited rebuild told locals this week.

“It’s in the middle of the park, it kind of bifurcates the two park spaces and we’re going to be looking at a way to combine the park space,” said Tanvi Pandya, during a joint Community Board 2 and Community Board 6 Transportation Committee meeting on May 17.

In April, the state passed its budget authorizing the use of a streamlined process called design-build for the city-led reconstruction of the derelict Brooklyn–Queens Expressway, giving the transportation department the green-light to break ground as early as 2021, with the hope of putting the finishing touches on the roadway’s new three-tiered structure called the triple cantilever by 2026 — the year transportation officials warn they’d have to boot trucks off of it and send them down local streets if something wasn’t done.

The transportation department’s yet-to-be hired contractors are going to reconfigure the highway from Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street anyway, so they may as well also stitch together Van Voorhees Park’s two spaces — bounded by Columbia, Hicks, Congress streets and Atlantic Avenue — that include handball courts and a ball field on one side of the expressway’s on-and-off ramps, and tennis, basketball courts, and play equipment on the other, so that youngsters don’t have to trek across a speedway just to get to another section, said Pandya.

“The goal that I’ve given them is merge the two pieces of park,” she said. “Make sure people have a safe space to walk, so minimize that interaction with traffic to the degree that you can.”

For the plan to come to fruition, the on-ramp, considered by many to be one of the most dangerous in the city thanks to its 0-foot approach, would presumably be moved someplace else, or eliminated.

Locals pressed for more details on the park plan, and warned not to make it even more dangerous to pedestrians, surrounded by traffic and construction.

“My concern is that in doing this and coming up with a viable design that we don’t lose access and use of the park,” said Jerry Armer, a member of Community Board 6’s transportation committee. “Looking at how to keep some access to the park and not to make it so the people who live in the Columbia Street Waterfront District don’t have a park at all for a while, that would be problem.”

But transportation bigwigs had few details and said the scheme is still in its extreme early stages.

“A lot of things fluid and I would be very hesitant to tell you anything right now, I do know we are definitely trying to combine and make it safer for pedestrians to get around,” said Pandya.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Through traffic: The on and off ramps to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway cut right through Van Voorhees Park on Columbia Street.
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