It’s trench warfare as city eyes quick BQE fix

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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.

Updated 5:16 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Pacholo from red hook says:
It's not an easy task cleaning up after Robert Moses. I think any type of greening over the trench is an improvement.
Jan. 5, 2010, 12:49 am
Lucy from Caroll Gardens says:
I kind of enjoy how it is now. It's a bit funny and different. Not sure that I would look forward to all the construction involved in changing it.
Jan. 5, 2010, 9:55 am
Fred from Baltimore says:
Lucy's right. It's kind of like the boarded up falling down row homes in Baltimore. They bring a sense of uniqueness to the city. Why would you want to get rid of that?
Jan. 5, 2010, 10:06 am
Boris from Bay Ridge says:
Every time I drive along this portion of the BQE (which, unfortunately, is often) I think about how it should be decked over. It would improve both the neighborhood and the quality of the driving (the surface will no longer get pounded with rain and snow, lasting longer- once they fix it, of course).

Regarding the BQE in general, though, it should be turned into a toll road. It is functionally identical to the NJ Turnpike and the NY Thruway, it makes no sense for it to remain as a giveaway to trucking companies and other freeloaders.
Jan. 5, 2010, 10:18 am
paco from cobble hill says:
completely decking over the most heavily used highway in the nation would bottle up car pollution in the middle but overwhelm the areas on either end. the columbia waterfront neighborhood can be better reunited with south brooklyn if a few pedestrian and bicycle bridges were made in addition to greenery, allowing new 'people' access but not new 'car' access.
Jan. 5, 2010, 10:27 am
chuck from bh says:
You'll be saying this same thing about the Atlantic Yards toilet in twenty years.
Jan. 5, 2010, 11:43 am
Vale from Kashmir says:
Let's see: A Brooklyn neighborhood/street/park and a modest, unimaginative, nostalgia-riven plan. How usual!
Jan. 5, 2010, 4:37 pm
George from Washington says:
Part of the problem is how it looks, of course, but the bigger problem is the awful air pollution that gets concentrated in this area (which, as Paco points out, will be even more concentrated in select areas if the ditch is transformed into a tunnel). I wonder if this planning team has an air quality specialist involved that is really looking into the science of improving the environment or if this is all just a question of greenwashing.
Jan. 5, 2010, 5:23 pm
Steve from Brooklyn says:
This seems like a very nice plan from the EDC.

Therefore, they must have intentions other than they are stating. They never do anything in this administration without trying to benefit some giant retailer or developer.

Just picture that illustration with a bunch of Starbucks, Gaps, IKEAs and so on. That's probably what they have in mind.
Jan. 5, 2010, 9:29 pm
Frank from Cobble Hill says:
Adding green to the trench will help curb pollution and beautify the area for everyone.
Jan. 10, 2010, 10:56 am
TK from Red Hook says:
I agree with Paco 100% about more pedestrian and biker friendly bridges and side-walks. Some kind of sound mitigation product along the fences to keep the noise to a low roar as you walk by would be helpful too. Also, the more trees and plants that are planted the better the air quality will be and should help with the noise as well.
Jan. 11, 2010, 4:59 pm

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