With a $100 million estimated cost - first advocated for by the councilwoman and Los Sures, El Puente and the St. Nicks Alliance six years ago – the project would extend the neighborhood’s existing park space across the BQE between Marcy Avenue and Rodney Street, from South 3rd to South 5th streets.
Recently, stakeholders met with the mayor’s office, Department of Transportation (DOT) and dozens of local and federal elected officials to discuss an application for a $20 million USDOT Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant in hopes of getting the project off the ground.
“We’re asking them to partner with us, to go after the TIGER funding to do the initial schematic design and the environmental permitting that would be involved in the process,” explained Susannah Drake, a principal with dlandstudio. “If we do that process, then it puts us in a better position for grant funding, and puts us in better position for other funding as well.”
Following the meeting, Drake said both city and federal officials seemed receptive of the program, a project she says could create more than 200 construction jobs and result in nearly $245 million in economic activity.
“What they wanted was outdoor recreation space, and there really wasn’t that kind of place for teenagers to run around,” Drake said of the call by the local advocacy groups. “The BQE is just this line of smog running through Queens and Brooklyn and if you live there, and you’re going to school there, you’re going to be affected.”
With a projected 30 percent increase in park space and 250 percent increase in tree coverage, Drake explained that the project would not only create an annual $50,000 in overall financial benefits, but it could potentially reduce asthma rates by nearly 25 percent and save $1 million in asthma-related hospital visits.
One of the major undertakings of the capping project includes the reparation of a decades-old bridges, a project that Reyna, now Brooklyn’s deputy borough president, said is integral in creating a safer and healthier future for the region.
“This would have federal dollars to invest on the streets and bring them up to code,” Reyna said.
She added that while the project creates an affordable plan to repair the bridges along the BQE, some of which she said were built in the 1950s, it would also allow an opportunity to create an innovative way to reduce greenhouse gases and add some much-needed park space.
“If we could cap them, we would have a much healthier environment,” Reyna said. “There would be better ventilation using updated technology to recycle carbon emissions and disperse from a dense residential area and from schools.”
In addition to both the economic and environmental benefits of the project, Reyna believes the project would also unite notoriously dangerous gang-ridden sections of the borough and address the region’s growing poverty rate, which is now at roughly 30 percent according to the dlandstudio study.
“This is a tool that would unite our community that is right now divided by a highway,” Reyna said.
According to the study, which cites an October 2010 New York Magazine article, the BQE in South Williamsburg divides notorious Brooklyn gangs like the Crips and the Trinitarios.
Borough President Eric Adams, also a key part of the grant proposal meeting with the de Blasio Administration last week, said he too is hopeful that the plan would one day become reality.
“Reyna has a dynamic vision for transforming and uniting the Southside of Williamsburg,” Adams said. “I am excited to join her in this effort to see how we can make this community a healthier and safer place.”