Cap the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway
In Williamsburg, there is a tremendous opportunity to cap the trench of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and build an open space amenity for the South Side Williamsburg community. This is not a tunnel and not a “Big Dig.” Instead, it is a thin deck capping the BQE that could benefit over 160,000 people in the surrounding neighborhood, which is a primarily low-income and Hispanic area.
Aside from the benefits to the community, there are a number of economic benefits in capping the trench with a park. Increases in the land value, retail value and property taxes in the surrounding area could cover as much as 75% of the cost of the park alone. There is potential for new construction jobs and other related economic activity during construction.
Furthermore, the bridges crossing the BQE were built 50 years ago and are reaching the end of their lifespans. The City will have to spend $30 million on their replacement in the next five to ten years. We should leverage that local expenditure against a federal ask for an additional $70 million in funding. If we can secure that funding through a HUD community development grant or other infrastructure initiative, we can transform this piece of crumbling infrastructure into an incredible new open space for the community.
Susannah C. Drake, FASLA, is the Founding Principal of dlandstudio, an award-winning multidisciplinary design firm. She is also Visiting Professor at The Cooper Union.