When it was built in the 1940s, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway became immediately notorious for the fact that Robert Moses planned it to rip through otherwise quiet, low-scale neighborhoods. Today, it’s poor reputation has more to do with potholes, bumps, congestion, and pollution. But that will soon change, as the city is embarking on a five-year rehab of the heavily trafficked, 1.5-mile stretch of the highway that runs between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street in Brooklyn and includes “21 concrete-and-steel bridges over local roads,” according to the Times. And at $1.7 billion, it will be the Department of Transportation’s most expensive project ever undertaken.
NYC-based design firm Buro Koray Duman has come up with a series of plans to use the under-utilized space beneath the BQE in a site near Sunset Park‘s Industry City, the massive waterfront industrial complex which itself has recently experienced a renaissance as a hub for designers and local manufacturers. The elevated highway separates Industry City from the rest of the neighborhood, and the proposed uses would connect the space beneath with the creative and commercial energy of the complex. According to Dezeen, the firm saw an opportunity to put the empty sub-highway space to good use and add “more color and convenience to the city’s daily life.”
If you have even the slightest interest in architecture, urban planning, and NYC history, you know Robert Moses. Unforgettably profiled as the “Power Broker” by Robert Caro, Moses was the “master builder” of mid-20th century New York and its environs. He was a larger-than-life character who had very set ways of approaching urban design. He advocated for highways over public transportation (he built 13 expressways through NYC), dense housing towers over low-scale neighborhoods, and communities segregated by race and class over organic, mixed-demographic areas. Of course, there are plenty of much-loved aspects of the city that also came from Moses–Jones Beach, the United Nations, and ten public swimming pools like the one in McCarren Park.
Regardless of your feelings on Robert Moses, though, we can all agree that the city would not be the same without him. But a lot has changed since he lost his post as director of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority in the mid 1960s and even more so since he passed away in 1981. So we can’t help but wonder what he would think of our fair city in 2015. To have a little fun, we planned a present-day tour for the ghost of Robert Moses.
I sat under a canopy of blue sky on the elevated platform of the Sutter Avenue stop in Brownsville, Brooklyn. I like elevated subway stations because they’re, you know, elevated as opposed to that subterranean scene that transpires underground. What I wasn’t liking so much that particular day, high above the busy avenue, was the way the platform slightly vibrated with each passing vehicle below. It was somewhat unsettling. And then the ground really started to shake, so much so that I looked to the distance to see if Godzilla bore down on Brooklyn, smashing cars and pounding through buildings, breathing fire and squawking that awful squawk. But it was only the 3 Train rattling in from East New York. The platform continued to shake more and more until the train, thankfully, came to a stop. I got on board, but I wasn’t all that happy about it.
And then I started to think about my dog.