Landmark argument: City could break its own preservation laws by turning Promenade into highway to fix BQE, experts say

Illegal?: Private preservationists and local civic leaders penned a letter to the city warning that officials may violate laws established to protect the Brooklyn Heights Promenade’s views if they move forward with turning the walkway into a six-lane speedway during repairs to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway’s triple cantilever.
Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

The city’s controversial proposal to turn the Brooklyn Heights Promenade into a six-lane speedway for cars and trucks during the reconstruction of the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway’s triple cantilever could violate decades-old laws established to protect views from the fabled walkway, according to a landmarks expert.

“Our opposition is based in law, we feel very strongly that the Brooklyn Heights Promenade is protected by a number of environmental and preservation laws, and those cannot be ignored when contemplating its future,” said Simeon Bankoff, who heads the privately run preservation group, the Historic Districts Council.

Bankoff’s organization teamed up with six civic groups — which collectively represent about 40,000 Brooklynites — to pen a letter to city, state, and federal transportation leaders demanding the local Department of Transportation rethink its plan to put a temporary highway on the historic walkway as part of its repairs to the three-tiered infrastructure, which experts say could start to collapse in 2026 under the weight of the thousands of trucks that travel it daily.

Turning the 70-year-old Promenade, part of which sits atop the triple cantilever, into a highway would block its world-famous views of the East River and Manhattan skyline — vistas the city protected in 1974 when it named the walkway a so-called Special Scenic View District, forbidding any obstructive construction along its path, the preservationists argued in their letter.

“Transforming the Promenade into a six-lane interstate highway through a “temporary” six-year, multi-billion dollar project would inflict severe environmental, social, and economic harm on the neighboring communities and their tens of thousands of residents — and is unacceptab­le,” the Jan. 31 missive read.

The Brooklyn Heights walkway’s scenic-view designation followed similar decrees established as far back as 1965, when the Landmarks Preservation Commission named the neighborhood as the city’s first historic district, leading the Feds to christen America’s First Suburb as a National Historic Landmark later that year.

The preservationists are prepared to file suit against the city if it moves forward with transforming the Promenade into a speedway for no less than six years, according to Bankoff, who said they wouldn’t take legal action while officials are reviewing the options on the table to repair the 1.5-mile stretch of expressway between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street.

Those options include the city’s so-called innovative approach to send traffic along the Promenade, which officials say could allow the fix to wrap by 2026; its so-called traditional approach, a lane-by-lane repair that could stretch into 2028 and cause traffic jams for up to 12 miles; and a third option recently submitted by a local architect, which proposes sending expressway traffic down a temporary roadway closer to Brooklyn Bridge Park.

“You can’t file a lawsuit unless some action has been taken, no action has been taken, the city is still looking at several plans,” Bankoff said.

Leaders of another group formed specifically to oppose transforming the Promenade into a highway doubled down on the preservati­onists’ demands, expressing no reservations about taking the city to court if officials proceed with their innovative option, which Mayor DeBlasio endorsed last October before dialing back his support.

“The courts are always an option of last resort, and we are prepared to use every tool to fight this to the end,” said Hilary Jager, a spokeswoman for advocacy group A Better Way NYC, who lives in Brooklyn Heights. “Our focus is on working collaboratively to find a better way to reduce traffic and pollution across the city. That’s why we’ve asked the City to stop moving forward with its proposed plan, engage with stakeholders, look at and seriously consider alternatives, and listen to the community.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 5:03 pm, February 12, 2019
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

Frank from Furter says:
? The Promenade is the top level of the triple cantilever. There is universal agreement that the 60 some year old triple cantilever needs to be repaired. The Promenade can't be repaired without rebuilding it. It just won't stand on its own. Yes they should consider alternatives to a six lane temporary highway but it still needs to be repaired. If the repairs wait until its no longer serviceable 130,000 vehicles per day will have to go somewhere...
Feb. 12, 2019, 5:59 pm
Lance from Boereum Hill says:
The city didn't protect the sacred protected views from the "fabled walkway" when they built that awful building obstructing the view of the Brooklyn Bridge. Greedy politicians and shameful NIMBY citizens, wake up! Imminent Domain is here to stay, has always been around and it is here to protect the greater good - in this case, rebuild the triple cantilever the quickest, cheapest way possible. After all, how can we eat our Jersey Peaches and Hudson Valley Apples without the BQE. And what about our organic products available at Whole Foods being delivered to our doorstep?
Feb. 12, 2019, 8:35 pm
Frank from Furter says:
Actually they protected the landmarked view plain. The buildings are outside the protected view plain.
Feb. 12, 2019, 8:49 pm
IntheSlope from Park Slope says:
ALL that traffic needs to go to go over the Verrazano Bridge that's the way for 130,000+ vehicles need to go not on the surface streets and the BQE. Traffic wants to get to the FREE crossings to NJ and for no other reason!
Feb. 13, 2019, 10:33 am
TOM from Sunset Park says:
Ever been to Savannah's waterfront? Well, it's Factors Walk faces the water where ships docked, dropped their wares, moved them into the Factors warehouses which connected up the bluff to the Factors residences. Factors were the middlemen who bough the cargo in transit from the manufacturer and sold on the wholesalers. He would advance payment, recoup his investment and take his profit by selling it at a higher price. This was the situation way back when in the Heights. The Factors lived on Columbia Street and did they business on Furman Street. The warehouse had to go for the highway, replaced after a compromise with Robert Moses with the cantilevered structure we have today. For how long, I would only guess. It saved the Heights proper from bulldozing. What everyone should remember is that NYS has absented itself from the funding of this project. Yes, US & NYC money here. And we will only end up with four of the six lanes when completed. I would be happier if NYS would only finish the work on the Gowanus bridgework(it is a bridge, the longest in NYS). No money they say.
Feb. 13, 2019, 3:37 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
How about just do the roadwork during late nights especially when little are using it at the time anyway so that nothing will have to be taken to relocate the traffic during the day?
Feb. 15, 2019, 12:53 pm

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: