Architecture firm BIG has unveiled a proposal to replace a decaying section of New York City’s Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) with a park. The proposal reroutes traffic to a subterranean roadway that would also include underground parking. The plan will be presented today (April 9) to locals and city officials in a town hall meeting in Brooklyn Heights.
Titled BQP (P stands for “park”), the proposal offers an ambitious plan to revamp the crumbling three-tiered 1.5-mile stretch of the BQE which passes through the neighborhood of Crown Heights near Downtown Brooklyn.
The plan proposes a 10-acres sloped park that slants from the upper tier of the BQE down to the waterfront. The new park will connect with the nearby Brooklyn Bridge Park. The existing upper tier of the BQE will be replaced with a pedestrian path.
“The result is a condition more reminiscent of Brooklyn Heights historical conditions — where city and river interlaced seamlessly, prior to construction of the highway,” the firm says its project proposal.
The proposal offers several scenarios of usage to the proposed park, including climbing walls, retail spaces, and housing opportunities. Furman Street, currently the lowest tier of BQE’s triple-cantilever structure, would be placed next to the park to accommodate local traffic. In all scenarios, an underground six-lane highway (split equally to north and southbound lanes) will replace the current highway.
The BQE was opened in 1954 to link the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens to each other. Built by the famed city planner Robert Moses, the 8-block three-level highway was hailed as an innovative solution that preserves the integrity of Brooklyn Heights and offers arresting views of Manhattan and the East River.
Overhauling the Brooklyn Heights section of the BQE has been an enormous challenge to the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT), as every change in the highway will necessarily affect the Brooklyn Heights promenade. City planners have described the project as the “most challenging project not only in New York City but arguably in the United States.”
Earlier this year, the city announced a plan to repair this portion of the BQE with a temporarily elevated roadbed, which would close the beloved promenade for up to six years. An online petition posted by A Better Way, which opposes the city’s tear-down-and-rebuild proposals, asks the DOT to look for other solutions. The petition has so far garnered 70,000 signatures.
BIG argues its plan will be both quicker and cheaper than the DOT’s: “The simple structural approach, and one-time construction of the new roadway, create a more feasible and less costly solution for reconstruction of the BQE, while delivering far more benefits to the community,” the firm said.
Earlier in April, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio froze the DOT’s latest plan and announced that he will form an expert panel to evaluate the different options for replacing the BQE in Brooklyn Heights.
The commission will be composed of architects and leaders in industry, academia, and the business sector. Its conclusions are due this summer.