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Heights bridge to the future?

The Brooklyn Paper

A futuristic, pod-like pedestrian bridge has emerged as a likely solution to an urban design problem that has vexed planners for years: how do you connect the famed Brooklyn Heights Promenade to the waterfront below — and avoid angering the posh neighborhood’s various interest groups at the same time?

The bridge, which would link the Promenade at Remsen Street to the state’s condo and open space development below, was proposed earlier this year by transportation consultants working with the state’s Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation.

While it was just one of several schemes drawn up for further study, the podwalk appears to be leading the pack in popularity and practicality.

The proposed skyway would cross the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway and lead down to the waterfront.

“This is the least objectionable,” said Irene Janner, a spokeswoman for the venerable Brooklyn Heights Association.

Early in the long-awaited development’s planning process, a pedestrian bridge between the two public overlooks was nixed after project engineers estimated its cost at $15 million. And some Heights residents complained that an influx of visitors would overwhelm the Promenade and crowd Heights streets.

“[This proposal] isn’t too tall and keeps people off to the side [of the central Promenade],” Janner said, but added that the bridge looked “a little awkward.”

Planners declined to speak in detail about the proposal, but one person involved said its popularity has not gone unnoticed.

“It doesn’t present the same challenges as [the other proposals],” he said. “It seems the most realistic.” (See other proposals below.)

The feasibility of any connection, however, is still to be determined, according to Hank Gutman, president of the group that is administering the study, the Downtown Brooklyn Waterfront Local Development Corporation.

“One issue that needs to be addressed by these potential plans is how they will be impacted by the repair work that we know must be done on the BQE,” Gutman said.

All the connections proposed would cross the cantilevered section of the BQE, which state transportation officials plan to repair over the next 15 years.

“[The Remsen Street bridge] has certain advantages,” Gutman said. “But right now we are looking at all the options.”

Funding for whatever option is selected would not come from the Brooklyn Bridge Park’s existing $150-million construction budget, but would require a new allocation.

Planners of the project said construction should begin this summer.

Proposal 1

View-plane blocking bridge and elevator from Montague Street

This controversial plan would violate a sacrosanct, skyline-minded local zoning restriction that bars structures from rising higher than 60 feet on the Brooklyn Heights waterfront. While the elevator shaft would only rise six feet above the protected view plane, it has already caused a bit of a stir. If not for the skyline snafu, and the opposition of Heights leaders to any Montague Street link, the design — with its stylish glass fence — could have been a contender.

Who it pleases: No one who wanted to talk about it.

Proposal 2

View-friendly Montague Street connection

This scheme creates a complex, three-part connection between the Promenade’s most central entrance at Montague Street and the proposed park and condo development below Brooklyn Heights. The benefit of this plan is its accessibility — and the fact that it preserves Brooklyn Heights’ treasured skyline view. The drawback is everything else. Who wants to walk down a ramp to get into an elevator to go to a park?

Who it pleases: The Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund and other critics of the current park plan.

Proposal 3

Furman Street tunnel

The idea is simple: an elevator from the end of Clark Streets to a tunnel that would lead to the Furman Street entrance of the park. The tunnel would be close to the Clark Street 2/3 subway station, and wouldn’t bring new pedestrian traffic into Brooklyn Heights’ quiet streets. There is no funding for such a piece of infrastructure within the park project’s budget, and tunnels don’t come cheap.

Who it pleases: Heights residents, landscape architects, historians and sandhogs.

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