Plan for a park on top of the BQE still seeks funding
by Andrew Shilling
May 08, 2013 | 1290 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Trench park plans presented at Espiritu Terra Community Garden on Earth Day
Trench park plans presented at Espiritu Terra Community Garden on Earth Day
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Councilwoman Diana Reyna and the Brooklyn-based architecture firm Dland Studio were out promoting their plan for a park to cap the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE) last week at an El Puente Earth Day celebration in South Williamsburg.

In order to continue their outreach in the community and broaden the movement for the project, they showed a version of their design at the Espiritu Terra Community Garden on South 2nd Street near Roebling Avenue.

It calls for extending of the neighborhood’s existing park space across the BQE between Marcy Avenue and Rodney Street, from South 3rd to South 5th Streets.

Also known as the BQGreen Project, the “deck” will extend across the 20 to 30-foot depression of the expressway and increase open space by 30 percent, according to Reyna’s office.

Dland Studio was granted a budget range of $85 to $175 million to perform a feasibility study for the plan in 2010, and while the project is still in the introductory stages, the question has now become whether they will get the funding to move forward with the undertaking.

“It all depends on whether the city and state decide to back it,” said Dland Studio principal Susannah Drake. “We’re trying to get their attention, and attention at a time when were about to have a change in the mayor and in the process of Sandy recovery.”

Aside from adding more trees to the industrial overlay of the expressway, the plan calls for garden space, a pool, playgrounds, basketball courts, a baseball field and a community center.

Designed to inspire economic growth and green awareness in the region, Drake explained that the health benefits and long-term investment in greenhouse gas reductions outweigh any budgetary constraints.

“We’ve calculated that if we put in 350 trees, it would return $50 million over 10 years; cleaning the water, cooling the air and generally reducing pollution,” she said. “Seventy-five percent of the cost are paid for and can be earned back over the years it will take to complete the project.”

According to the feasibility study, bridges at South Third, Fourth and Fifth streets, envisioned in the project, will soon need about $10 million in repairs.

“The bridges across the BQE are about 50 years old and will eventually need to be replaced,” Drake said. “The city will have to replace these in the next 10 years.”

Drake said the city may not take the risk at a time when they already have to consider rebuilding the outdated overpasses, and is concerned that they might play it safe.

“There are just a lot of people who are comfortable doing the same old thing,” Drake said. “Every time you innovate, there’s a cost, there’s an initial investment that has to happen.”

Commissioned by Reyna in 2005, the project has been facilitated by El Puente, the St. Nicks Alliance and the Southside United Housing Development Fund Corp. (Los Sures) to advocate for the development of South Williamsburg and provide the community outreach.

According to a representative at Reyna’s office, the councilwoman has been looking to federal funding, as it seems state expenditures are more focused on Sandy relief efforts.

Nevertheless, Reyna explained the project is still very important in reducing air pollution and providing an outlet for community activity and exercise.

“The close proximity of one of New York City’s busiest highways to Williamsburg residents has dramatically increased the level of particulate and often toxic matter in residential areas over the last several decades,” Reyna said.

According to the feasibility study, roughly 3,500 cars travel through the BQE trench during peak hours, producing 20,000 pounds of pollutants,including hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide.

“The BQGreen project will play a role in addressing these health concerns in both preventive and remedial ways,” Reyna said. “By reducing the level of air pollution in residential areas and providing more open green space for the community to exercise, we hope to address the discouraging rates of asthma and obesity in North Brooklyn.”

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