Fix the ditch! Locals uniting to solve the BQE divide

The Brooklyn–Queens Expressway trench has divided Carroll Gardens for more than 50 years, but now it’s bringing people together.

More than 100 area residents met on Tuesday to devise a plan to help pedestrians and cyclists navigate the sunken, Robert Moses-built monstrosity that cleaves the neighborhood and has just four bridges connecting Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill to the Columbia Street Waterfront District.

The “reimagining” is being led by the Economic Development Corporation, which insists that it has no preconceived notions for how to “fix the ditch” — except for “something implementable, sustainable and something that restores connectivity,” said Jessica Pavone, an assistant vice president with the agency. “Whatever fits, we’re open to it.”

The project is ambitious: Experts hope to reduce noise, beautify the area, and improve safety — and do so in a way that’s cost effective, environmentally sustainable and achievable in the next five to 10 years.

Most activists, including Carroll Gardens resident Kathy Carney, said the first step is to cut down on the pollutants and noise created by the highway.

“We need more green space, more pedestrian space, and more stroller space,” said Carney.

Indeed, no one veered far from the agency’s initial suggestions, which include sound-reducing “green” walls, and smartly designed pedestrian walkways.

But the bureaucratic kumbaya has its limits.

One member of the consulting team admitted that an ill-fated plan from the 1970s to deck over the trench and build housing on platforms remains a distant possibility. That plan failed decades ago because decking would present a technical hurdle and a huge expense to ventilate the noxious exhaust fumes.

But reports of that plan’s death may be exaggerated, said Gregory Kiss of Kiss+Cathcart Architects, eliciting groans from residents.

The Trench Enhancement Study is being led by Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners. A second of three planned meetings is scheduled for July. Officials will be back in the fall with three designs.