A broad coalition of politicians and activists criticized the Department of Transportation’s plan for a paid parking lot underneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway during a public Zoom meeting Thursday evening.
Representatives from most major politicians in North Brooklyn attended the public session, including staffers from the offices of Council Member Antonio Reynoso and Stephen Levin as well as State Senator Julia Salazar and Brian Kavanaugh.
The chorus of disregard came after the DOT announced in September its intention to construct a paid parking lot along Meeker Avenue from Metropolitan to Morgan Avenue, much to Community Board 1’s dismay. The plan negated an almost-decade-long effort from local community members to envision more creative uses of the empty concrete underneath the raised highway.
“The reality is that the DOT is moving without the consent of the community,” Alvin Peña, representative from Salazar’s office, said during the call.
Despite recognizing that the city is in unprecedented financial straits due to the economic ravages of the pandemic, most attendees thought that the DOT’s plans were tone deaf.
“For the DOT to come to this community and try to put a parking lot under [the BQE] is truly a slap in the face,” said Karen Nieves, a member of Community Board 1.
Part communal piling-on, part brainstorming session, the conversation turned to alternative initiatives, which ranged from installing bike lanes along Meeker Avenue to turning the 25 acres of concrete into park space, similar to the city’s addition of green space this summer underneath the Kosciuszko Bridge.
“Let’s dream big,” said Luke Ohlson, vice chair of North Brooklyn Neighbors, as politicians, community members and activists outlined potential ideas for the space.
Attendees came to no collective decisions on what should be in the planned parking lot’s stead. Kevin LaCherra, a Greenpoint resident and one of the meeting’s organizers, called for three more “visioning,” or brainstorming, sessions in the upcoming months.
However, by the end of the evening, one thing was certain.
“No parking lot,” said Nieves. “Sorry. Not gonna happen.”