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Repair or Destruction? The Conflicts over a Controversial Highway

The Heights. A tranquil environment known for the sounds of birds chirping, small cozy restaurants, and the refreshing feeling of the East River wind hitting your face on the Promenade. This dynamic, community-based area has been and is known for its closely knit array of historic brownstones and abundance of families. This light-hearted reputation is the exact reason why a six-lane highway through the most residential area of the neighborhood would be detrimental to this harmony.

Photo of the BQE and Promenade setup as it is today. Image taken from: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/28/nyregion/dreaded-by-drivers-brooklyn-queens-expressway-is-set-for-repairs.html.

Because of unanticipatedly high traffic levels on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, more commonly referred to as the BQE, in recent years, problems with the structure are starting to arise. The catch, however, is that the BQE is attached to the promenade, making the process of removal or repair extremely complicated and two-sided.

Diagram of BQE and Promenade with cantilever
 system. Image taken
 from https://www.bqe-i278.com/en/about. 

The BQE has been and remains an essential part of cross-borough traveling for inhabitants of New York City, so getting rid of it because of its structural failings is simply not an option. When it was first built, the BQE was meant to be a temporary installment, but now New York City is in need of something that is a more permanent and durable for the future, and the effect that this proposed highway could have on the Heights community is shocking.

Because there is so much tension over the matter, the Department of Transportation has proposed two ideas for repair, and neither of them seem to be pleasing any Brooklynites. The first method would be to repair each lane of the BQE one at a time, messing with traffic, and presenting more possible structural problems in the future.

The second approach would be to build a huge, six-lane highway from Atlantic Avenue, over the BQE, on the Promenade, and back down over the Brooklyn Bridge. This option is very dangerous and harmful to many aspects of the community, as it would cause years of loud construction and disrupt neighborhoods. In addition, it would split the community in half; Brooklyn Bridge Park and the surrounding blocks would be separated from the rest of the Heights.

A historical landmark and one of the most famous parts of Brooklyn, the Promenade would be sacrificed in the building of this highway. For those who do not know, the Promenade is a mere three blocks from Packer, and the proposed highway would be just as close, disturbing the walks to school of dozens of Packer families and students.

The Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Image taken from https://nyharborparks.org/visit-parks/.


Working on Court Street for EAD associates, as an Emergency Management Consultant, and a Packer parent, Elizabeth Davis, gives her opinions the matter, and how the community of Brooklyn Heights has to rally to stop the highway. When discussing the consequences of this idea, Liz touched on the most appalling aspects of the ordeal: “The view, the promenade, is a very important piece of the landscape here, not just for the residents, but for the number of tourists who come to this, [and] for the businesses who rely on it..” she says, however on top of this, “there are environmental concerns, this would put an active 6-lane highway…right, literally up to people’s windows.”


Proposed plan for the highway. Image taken fromhttps://www.bqe-i278.com/en/about.

This highway would be in range of four schools, run past thousands of houses, and damage the environment of the area beyond repair. With an extensive construction project, the effects on the environment are easily overlooked, but since the new highway is supposed to be temporary, there are inevitable environmental consequences when it is put up, and taken down (along with car emissions and pollution greater than ever before, with an added 3 lanes) to the highway.

Another one of her biggest concerns with the process is the time this construction will take. Either way, whether the Department of Transportation decides to build a highway over the Promenade or repair the BQE, the process will take much longer than people currently anticipate.

“Even though the word temporary has been floated around,” she mentions discussing the DOT’s advertisements of the project as “around 6 years”, Liz says that “from historically looking at construction projects of this type [in the] transportation arena, [that] the rule of thumb is, times [that estimation by] two, [and] plus up to three, so even though it’s being advertised as maybe a six-year project, it could stretch out to four [additional years], if not more.” In other words, not only will the project and rebuild of this major highway put citizens in danger and harm the environment, it will also last for much longer than it is falsely advertised, irreparably changing the identity of the community.

Carly Mraz is currently a sophomore at The Packer Collegiate Institute and is a reporter for the Packer Prism this year. She has written several Op-ed articles for the Prism in the past but is excited to be a part of the Prism staff this year and create more content and learn about the reporting process. Carly is a member of the Harvard Model Congress club here at packer and a player on the Girls soccer team. Outside of school, Carly is almost always dancing, hanging out with friends, or binge watching Grey’s Anatomy. Carly can be reached at camraz@packer.edu.

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