Brooklyn Heights Association 2022 Annual Meeting Addresses BQE, Montague St., Climate Change

The BQE. Eagle archive photo by Paul Frangipane

The Brooklyn Heights Association’s 2022 Annual Meeting was held Feb. 24 online for the second year in a row. The Zoom event covered topics including the rebuilding of the Brooklyn-Queens Freeway, traffic patterns on Montague Street, and ongoing issues for local businesses.

The meeting featured a panel discussion with renowned authors and journalists Eugene Linden and Leslie Kaufman in a conversation about climate change.

BHA also presented its annual Community Service Awards to groups and individuals who have made a significant contribution to the quality of neighborhood life. Popular Thirteen WNET New York host Tom Stewart hosted the awards ceremony.

BHA President Erika Belsey Worth chaired the meeting and Chief Executive Lara Birnback presented the financial statements (available online). Worth opened with a tribute to two special members lost this year: Jack Kenny and Ben Crane.

“[Kenny] used to stop by the BHA office with quality of life reports – overflowing bins etc. He never missed an annual meeting and was the first to put a six-lane highway? Certainly not!’ displays in his window,” Belsey Worth said.

“Ben Crane led the successful trial that preserved the scenic view plan and halted the development of Piers 1 through 5,” she said. “To quote former executive director Judy Stanton, ‘Ben Craine was a treasure of a man who gets as much credit for Brooklyn Bridge Park as can be given to him.'”

BHA Community Service Award winner Amerika Williamson. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Heights Association

The crumbling Brooklyn-Queens Highway

“The BHA has not wavered in its resolve to seek a more responsible and lasting solution to the BQE problem,” Belsey Worth said. “We continue to work with our neighbors on the ‘BQET’, which is the Coalition for the Transformation of the BQE.” She applauded legislation allowing counters that would automatically identify overweight trucks.

The addition of a bike lane over the Brooklyn Bridge has reduced traffic bound for Manhattan from three to two lanes, benefiting both cyclists and the crumbling overhang that underlies the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, she said. Reducing traffic on the cantilever from three to two lanes in each direction has not clogged local streets as feared, she added.

BHA advocates for these specific BQE priorities:

  • Eliminates pollution, vibration and noise, especially in the Northern Heights.
  • Preserve the Historic Parkway and maintain compliance with SV-1, the View Plan.
  • Improve existing entrances to Brooklyn Bridge Park, especially at Atlantic Avenue
  • Create new connections to the park from Brooklyn Heights.
Team members received a BHA Community Service Award for the Brooklyn Heights Community Fridge project. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Heights Association

Montague Street and Clark Street Station

BHA hired “traffic guru” Sam Schwartz to analyze the current traffic situation on Montague Street. Schwartz is working on the design of the four blocks from Court Street to Montague Terrace.

“The goal is to create a pedestrian zone that encourages people to linger and shop so that our existing businesses thrive and our new businesses fill the remaining empty spaces,” Belsey Worth said.

She urged neighbors to shop at shops in Clark Street tube station, which is suffering a devastating loss of business as lifts are built.

“The MTA has told us the work is on schedule and they will reopen the station for full service by the end of April,” she said.

Authors and journalist Leslie Kaufman, panelist at the 2022 Annual Meeting of the Brooklyn Heights Association. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Heights Association

Change of Senate constituency

“Brooklyn Heights could lose Sen. Brian Kavanagh when we become part of Senate District 23,” Belsey Worth said. Most of Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo will be combined with parts of Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook, the coast of Sunset Park, Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Staten Island. BHA will invite candidates to speak at a Candidates Forum on June 28.

Author and journalist Eugene Linden, panelist at the Brooklyn Heights Association’s 2022 Annual Meeting. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Heights Association

Community Service Awards

Stewart hosted the Community Service Awards with his usual jovial panache. Awards were presented to Amerika Williamson, for leading the annual tree lighting ceremony on the boardwalk, and to the founders of the Brooklyn Heights Community Fridge, led by the Reverend Adriene Thorne, pastor of First Presbyterian Church.

“Sometimes things happen in our communities that we just take for granted. They seem to happen every year on their own… Such is the story of the Christmas tree lighting ceremony on the Promenade,” Stewart said. “Tonight we would like to pay tribute to Amerika Williamson, who is the unsung hero of this beautiful tradition.”

“Take what you need, leave what you don’t — that’s the motto of the Brooklyn Heights Community Refrigerator,” where Reverend Adriene Thorne got together with neighbors to provide fresh fruit and meals to those in need, Stewart said. Instrumentals were Darryahn Knight, James and Caroline Koster, Jenny Astrachan and others, including school and church bands.

Climate talk

Panelists Eugene Linden and Leslie Kaufman were introduced by BHA’s Birnback, who noted that environmental effects are an important consideration in BHA’s work with the BQE and Montague Street.

“We’ve known about climate change for decades, and yet when we look at what we’ve done to stop it, it’s very little,” Kaufman said. She asked why, if we have so much knowledge, it took us so long to answer.

One answer is that the industry developed a playbook that was used when troublesome issues like the ozone layer or global warming came up, Linden said.

“The fuel lobby has used the same playbook developed during the ozone story: challenging science and consensus, attacking scientists and their motives, and most importantly saying we have time.”

Consumers can choose not to buy products made by “bad actors,” Linden said. He also recommended universal tariffs and putting pressure on businesses. “It is within our power to reduce emissions if we find the will to do so,” he said.

The entire meeting can be viewed here.

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