Fate of Brooklyn Heights Promenade Tethered to BQE Repair

The Brooklyn Heights Promenade will be closed as the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway below it is replaced. A Brownstoner column celebrates the esplanade's 68th birthday on Oct. 7, noting its troubled past and connection to Robert Moses.
October 8, 2018, 9am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Julie Feinstein

On Oct. 7, 1950, the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, known for its views of Lower Manhattan and New York Harbor, opened to the public. Sitting on top of a 0.4-mile-long, triple-cantilevered section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the popular walkway could be closed for up to six years as the Expressway is replaced.

Image by NYCDOT

The Triple Cantilever, 0.4 miles long, was built between 1944 and 1948. It carries the BQE on two cantilevers: three (3) lanes Eastbound above three (3) lanes Westbound with the Brooklyn Promenade on top.

Image and text by NYCDOT: Project Overview of the  BQE – Atlantic to Sands Project. [If the image isn't visible, see NYCDOT image (jpg)].

Susan De Vries, research editor for Brownstoner, penned a column discussing the current plans of the New York City Department of Transportation, and the roadway's troubled history at the hands of Robert Moses, with links to related articles on Brooklyn neighborhood history. 

See Brownstoner's YouTube video showing human and motorized traffic on all three elevated levels of the Triple Cantilever.

Construction of the overlook and the cantilevered Brooklyn-Queens Expressway underneath started in 1946 after a contentious battle between Robert Moses and the community, which was intent on keeping a transportation project from cutting apart their neighborhood.

"More than anyone else in recent history, Robert Moses shaped the physical infrastructure of Brooklyn," wrote Suzanne Spellen in February 2016. "We drive on his roads, stroll through his parks, live in his housing developments and are surrounded by his influence at every turn."

Most people are aware that Robert Moses built the BQE, and chose to cut a trench through the working-class neighborhoods of what was then known as South Brooklyn, separating Red Hook from the rest of the borough and what later became Carroll Gardens.

He would have continued that trench straight through Hicks Street in Brooklyn Heights, destroying that neighborhood as well. But the people in the Heights had more political power than those in Red Hook, and the great compromise that created the Promenade saved the area [...]

"Brooklyn Heights Is Fighting Robert Moses Again," writes Ginia Bellafante in her Big City weekly column published Sunday in The New York Times.

In terms of its built environment, New York now contains two cities in conflict. One is the gleaming 21st-century metropolis of the Bloomberg administration's imagination; the other is the deteriorating landscape onto which it was almost mindlessly grafted, one scarred in so many places by the benighted ambitions of Robert Moses.

On Oct. 4, Times metro reporter Winnie Hue detailed the two plans under consideration to replace the deteriorating 1.5-mile stretch of the BQE and what it would mean for the replacement of the Promenade (spoiler alert: it could be a widened walkway).

Related in Planetizen:

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Published on Thursday, October 4, 2018 in Brownstoner
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