The city said this week it is looking for companies capable of devising a scheme to make tolerable the concrete and asphalt channel carved out by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.
The Economic Development Corporation (EDC) released a request for qualifications for a BQE study that will examine ways of mitigating some of the impacts the highway trench has had on Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and the Columbia Street District — once collectively known as South Brooklyn.
“We are looking for firms that think they can do the project,” said Janel Patterson, a spokesperson for the EDC, the quasi−public agency working in concert with the city Department of Transportation on the project.
Patterson said the goal is to look at ways to mitigate the highway’s noise and pollution, and reconnect communities on both sides. According to the EDC, solutions may include beautification projects such as green planted buffers, overhanging walkways and⁄or pedestrian crossing bridges.
“Ultimately, this project will benefit the community and enhance the surrounding region by developing a pedestrian transportation network, improving air quality, decreasing noise pollution, expanding recreation options, and providing safe pedestrian access to and from the nearby waterfront Columbia Street area,” the agency stated.
Responses to the request for qualifications are due by July 8, 2009. After that, the EDC will select recipients to receive a request for proposals, and ultimately, select the firm to lead the design.
Craig Hammerman, the district manager of Community Board 6, called the said it was “huge news” that the city was finally acting on the $300,000 study, money was allocated by Rep. Nydia M. VelÁzquez in 2006. “We’ve been waiting of years to try and figure out the mechanics of how to spend the money,” Hammerman said, noting that there is a range of possible treatments, from building pedestrian and vehicular spans across the trench, to “decking over the whole thing and turning the trench into a tunnel.”
Jeff Strabone, the president of the Cobble Hill Association, said the goal is to build bridges re−linking the separated communities. “Bridges that are both metaphorical, and literal,” he said. One concern, he said, is if a proposal involved the construction of a deck over the highway, with housing built on top. “It’s something we worry about,” he admitted.
“We felt a terrible wrong was done to the community by bisecting them,” added Roy Sloane, a member and former president of the Cobble Hill Association.
The BQE, built in the 1950’s and completed in 1964, was the work of master builder Robert Moses. His biographer, Robert Caro writes in “The Power Broker,” that Moses would watch the highway’s construction from the penthouse of a nearby hotel.
“And I’ll tell you,” said one of the men who spent a lot of time at the hotel with him, “I never saw [Moses] look happier than he did when he was looking down out of that window,” Caro writes.