It’s trench warfare as city eyes quick BQE fix

Locals want BQE cover-up
OK, so this probably won't be happening. But the city is still hoping to beautify the BQE trench.

The notorious trench portion of the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway would be cleaned up and beautified under a less-than-ambitious proposal put forward by the city late last month.

City officials announced that they had hired a crack team of architects and urban planners to propose inexpensive improvements to the “ditch — a bit of a comedown from loftier plans to build housing and parkland atop the submerged stretch of the BQE from Atlantic to Hamilton avenues.

But this time, the city thinks it can improve the current mess, likely through green walkways along the ditch and new pedestrian bridges.

“The simplest improvements are ‘greening’ measures like trees that would clean up the area and improve it visually,” said Stephen Whitehouse, the lead landscape architect on the team.

Whitehouse also pointed out that measures to reduce noise are more complex. Or, more accurately, more expensive to do fully.

“We’ll look at ideas to diffuse the sound or bounce it away,” he said. “But I’d be surprised if we cover the BQE completely.”

Whitehouse added that the team would meet with the community in the spring, and prepare a full proposal within a year.

But the green plan is not the only idea on the table. Since the Economic Development Corporation is organizing the study, the mayor’s proposal to build housing atop the ditch is not completely dead — though in this economic climate, it doesn’t seem likely.

Long considered a noisy source of pollution — and an inconvenience to boot — the subterranean portion of the BQE features only four road crossings that connect Carroll Gardens from its western portion, now known as the Columbia Street Waterfront District.

The ditch, along with the nearby Gowanus Canal, stand as smelly scars from a less environmentally aware era.

The entire BQE also stands as one of Robert Moses’s lasting legacies, with the ditch serving as a clear symbol of the social inequalities that were critical in determining how it was designed.

While the more wealthy residents of Brooklyn Heights successfully lobbied the city to divert the BQE along the waterfront, the poorer residents of Red Hook and Carroll Gardens ended up with an asphalt trench through their neighborhood.

The existing roadway, of course, is a disaster.
The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan

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