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Preservationists may sue city if BQE reconstruction plan moves forward

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“There is absolutely no need for this destructive elevated highway,” one preservationist said

The BQE reconstruction plan threatens the historic Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
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A coalition of historic preservation groups may sue the city if it doesn’t pursue an alternative to rerouting Brooklyn-Queens Expressway traffic to a highway over the Brooklyn Heights Promenade during a six-year reconstruction plan.

The Historic Districts Council and six other groups penned a January 31 letter to city and state officials warning that the project would “privilege traffic over neighborhoods” and devastate Brooklyn Heights and the historic promenade.

“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 letter reads.

Historic preservationists say the plan may actually be illegal and fly in the face of city and federal laws and regulations, according to the head of the Historic Districts Council.

“We’re basing our opposition in law, this is not just hearts and minds this is deep concern that this is running against various environmental and preservation laws,” Simeon Bankoff, the executive director of the Historic Districts Council, told Curbed. “The promenade is a national historic landmark, it’s in a historic district, it’s protected under the zoning resolution—if that’s not enough to stop the damaging plan then think about how it undercuts the protective qualities of our laws.”

The city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) has proposed two options to repair the 1.5-mile stretch of the BQE: The first would replace the promenade with an elevated six-lane highway for six years while portions of the freeway are rebuilt. The second option would reconstruct the road lane-by-lane—closing portions of the highway and the promenade as needed—and partially divert traffic onto local roads.

But critics have panned the plans and some groups, such as the Brooklyn Heights Association, have proposed their own alternative. The coalition of preservationist groups hope the city will buckle under pressure and go with a less invasive plan, said another top preservationist.

“We want the city to finally proposes one of the many alternatives that it already has because there is absolutely no need for this destructive elevated highway,” Peg Breen, the president of The New York Landmarks Conservancy, told Curbed. “That highway is going to come dangerously close to 19th century landmark buildings—and who knows what type of damage six lanes of traffic pounding next to those buildings will do.”

The DOT is currently reviewing alternative proposals.