Pol: Brooklyn Bridge Park development put Promenade in the crosshairs

Another way to the waterfront: B’Heights biz leaders demand permanent crossing from Montague to Bridge park
Community News Group / Leah Lu

City and state officials should never have let developers build their luxury condos and swanky hotel inside Brooklyn Bridge Park knowing that they would one day interfere with rebuilding the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway’s crumbling triple cantilever above it, according to a Brooklyn Heights pol who urged the city to consider every option possible before turning the beloved Promenade into a speedway for cars and trucks.

“The city and state together built out Brooklyn Bridge Park and so you have like the new Pier 1 development, the hotel and Pierhouse — kind of right past where the cantilever ends, also the berms — and all those things were built out over the last seven or eight years, and at the time a number of us were saying, ‘This is going to be a problem when they have to rebuild the BQE,’ ” Councilman Stephen Levin (D–Brooklyn Heights) said during an interview with WNYC on Thursday. “The city, the state, and federal government all deserve a fair amount of blame for letting deterioration happen as long as it has.”

Levin echoed his constituents’ pleas to nix the idea of building a six-lane highway on the Heights’s historic walkway during reconstruction of the 70-year-old triple cantilever as part of the city’s so-called “innovative approach,” and instead looked at laying down the asphalt on the nearly fully developed waterfront meadow’s multi-million-dollar berms.

“Using parts of Brooklyn Bridge Park, that would be a shame, but the berm area, if that’s needed to do this less impactfully to the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, it needs to be looked at,” said Levin, who took office in 2010, on the radio show. “I’d like to explore any and every option that might be available.”

And on Tuesday, the influential Brooklyn Heights Association followed suit, coming out against the local Department of Transportation’s clearly favored option of doing away with the Promenade for six years to make way for a highway, telling officials to take it “off the table” and go back to the drawing board, including looking more closely at the park’s man-made hills — which Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said she would now do.

“The innovative approach is a six-lane highway feet from peoples’ windows,” said the civic group’s executive director Peter Bray. “Putting it where the berm is in the park would put it at a much greater distance and not at the same elevation as peoples’ apartments.”

Bray also pointed a finger at City Hall and the state for green-lighting the much-maligned development inside the park’s Pier 1 and 6, knowing full well that the polarizing residential towers and buildings would inhibit engineers from having sufficient access to the expressway when it finally came time to rebuild it.

“I particularly hold the DeBlasio Administration and state responsible for allowing the developer to proceed on Pier 1 and Pier 6, knowing that this was coming down the pike. Those would have been ideal sites for construction staging,” he said. “It’s severely constrained a number of options, it’s narrowed the corridor in which the construction work can take place.”

In 2008, the state’s Department of Transportation planned to start repairing the then-only 60-year-old highway by 2020 — two years after it initially promised — but ultimately put the kibosh on it, saying in 2011 that the massive project was too costly.

And even then, before much of the lawn had been built, locals feared how the impending construction on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway would interfere with the park.

“The question remains: how much of ‘Brooklyn Bridge Park’ is going to be co-opted for construction access to support rebuilding the BQE,” said resident Bill Harris a decade ago.

Nonetheless, developers broke ground on their controversial projects in 2013, after getting the green light from the city, which should never have given its approval if it thought about the predicament it would be in today, according to Bray.

“It’s not unexpected, the city does not do a good job of planning,” he said.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.