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Brooklyn Heights

City May Build A Temporary Highway Through Brooklyn Heights After All 

12:01 AM EST on March 1, 2023

The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Brooklyn Heights might get a temporary roadway (inset) during reconstruction.

Hey 2023, 2018 called and it wants its temporary highway back.

City officials revealed to reporters on Tuesday that they may build an interim highway atop a residential street on the edge of Brooklyn Heights when they rebuild the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway’s beleaguered triple cantilever section — a controversial possibility that harkens back to an earlier plan that went down in flames.

According to DOT officials, the city has two options throughout construction of the crumbling infrastructure: a diversion, which would close the BQE on some nights and weekends and send traffic onto local roads, or a bypass road to function as a temporary highway adjacent to the existing BQE.

But details are scant, leaving locals with more questions than answers.

“We have no idea what it looks like,” said Amy Breedlove of the Cobble Hill Association, who said she heard about the two options during a BQE Community Visioning Council  meeting last week.

The city's two options during construction of the BQE. Source: NYC DOT
The city's two options during construction of the BQE. Source: NYC DOT
The city's two options during construction of the BQE. Source: NYC DOT

The agency says construction would take around one year to build and that the structure would be in service for two to three years, though not likely before 2027, when repairs to the BQE are proposed to begin. Officials could not share a price tag, or even where exactly it would be built, if on top of Furman Street next to the existing, and lavish, Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Chart: DOT
Chart: DOT
Chart: DOT

"Although we have yet to see anything close to a detailed plan, or really any plan, for the construction of a temporary highway, it does seem that spending millions of dollars and years of construction on a temporary structure would not only be hugely disruptive for multiple neighborhoods and Brooklyn Bridge Park but would be a poor way to spend a lot of time, money and effort,” said Lara Birnback, the executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association. Birnback said that she first heard about the interim roadway during a community workshop in December.

The idea is reminiscent of a proposed temporary roadway near Brooklyn Bridge Park that was put forward in 2018 by the Brooklyn Heights Association’s chosen architect, Marc Wouters, after the previous administration initially considering removing the fabled Brooklyn Heights Promenade for at least six years and diverting traffic to a new roadway at that level. Neither proposal went forward.

This time, officials said that the promenade will not be significantly impacted, though it won’t necessarily remain untouched.

And locals are already fuming over the city’s plans to detour tens of thousands of trucks and cars onto local streets during interim repair work of the BQE. The city revealed back in June that it plans to close sections of the highway in each direction during an undisclosed number of nights and three weekends starting this month through October, and send rerouted traffic onto East Fifth Street and Caton Avenue in Windsor Terrace, Third and Fourth Avenues in Sunset Park, and down Linden Boulevard, which runs through Flatbush and East New York and then into Queens.

“East Fifth Street is a one-way narrow residential block with a school, playground, library, and Caton is two-way with two schools and a park — directing hundreds of thousands of trucks onto it seems insane,” Assembly Member Robertr Carroll (D-Windsor Terrace) told Streetsblog back in July.

The talk of a highway bypass or diverted traffic wasn't the only news from Tuesday; the DOT also unveiled more fleshed-out designs for the green space portion of the triple cantilever construction project. Called the Stoop, the Terraces, and the Lookout, each one differs only in how lavishly it creates even more green space under tony Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO, two of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city.

No similar plan exists to spruce up the state-controlled northern and southern stretches of the highway, which eviscerated neighborhoods when it was constructed decades ago. For now, of course, DOT is focusing on the matter it controls.

“These bold concepts reflect the wealth of feedback we’ve received from New Yorkers on how they want to reimagine BQE Central, with beautiful public spaces, safer bike and pedestrian connections, and improved access to local parks,” said DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez.

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