The BHA’s Annual Meeting played to a full house on Tuesday evening, February 26. St. Francis College officials were even forced to turn latecomers away for fire safety reasons.
Following Treasurer Kevin Reilly’s report on the BHA’s financial condition (see our audited financial statements), President Martha Bakos Dietz gave an overview of the BHA’s efforts on the BQE Project, the Borough-Based Jail Plan, and the BQX Streetcar.
Ms. Dietz stated that the BHA and the community have succeeded in ensuring that DOT consider the BHA alternative concept, as well as 3-5 other alternatives. She emphasized, however, that the BHA expects even more of the City:
“First, we want the Promenade Highway, with all its negative environmental and traffic effects, taken off the table. We want significant community input into a better alternative for a temporary bypass and into the ultimate design. We want better traffic management and more rational tolling implemented to reduce traffic on the BQE during and after construction. And equally important, we want the City to take a broad, long-term view of the region’s transportation needs and develop a 21st century solution rather than blindly rebuild a 20th century highway structure.”
Though the City appears to be listening to our voices, she entreated the community to maintain its pressure by calling and writing our elected officials, by becoming a BHA member to make our combined voice stronger, and by donating to the BHA BQE Fund.
Ms. Dietz also remarked upon the BHA’s staunch advocacy for a better City jail plan. While the BHA supports closing Rikers Island, and is supportive of a modern and more humane replacement for the current Brooklyn House of Detention at 275 Atlantic Avenue, the BHA, together with a coalition of other local stakeholders, opposes the massive plan for a new 1,510 bed jail – which would be the largest building in downtown Brooklyn - and has called upon the City to find a second jail site to house those who do not need to be close to the court system and to provide more appropriate treatment facilities for those suffering from mental illnesses.
Finally, Ms. Dietz reviewed the status of the BQX project, which appeared dead, but was seemingly revived by the prospect of an Amazon HQ in Long Island City, and whose fate now remains uncertain due to Amazon’s change of heart.
The meeting was enlivened by a distinguished panel whose discussion enlightened the community about whether City government is planning for Brooklyn’s future. To no one’s surprise, there was a resounding “No;” no one is doing any comprehensive planning. The panel was moderated by NY Times journalist Ginia Belafante and featured the diverse perspectives of Tom Angotti, Michelle de la Uz, and Alexander Garvin, each with distinguished planning experience (see their bios). The panel examined the city’s transportation needs in the context of the BQE project, the severe
challenge posed by insufficient affordable housing, and the proliferation of empty storefronts that increasingly blight our neighborhoods.
Finally, the BHA honored four organizations or individuals who have contributed in significant ways to making Brooklyn Heights a better community. Tom Stewart, the voice of WNET Channel Thirteen, provided color commentary on the honorees.