A group of Brooklyn architects has come up with a plan for replacing the Gowanus Expressway that doesnt involve a tunnel, but that would turn Third Avenue into a broad boulevard for strolling, shopping and dining. Members of the Brooklyn chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) have developed the proposal for the corridor as part of the organizations 150th anniversary Blueprint for America program, said Glen V. Cutrona, the architect who spearheaded the effort, which he called, a gift to the community from the architects. The purpose of the project would be to bring Third Avenue and the surrounding community out from under the shadow of the hulking viaduct, which would be replaced by a cable suspension raised roadway running along First Avenue, said Cutrona. This, he pointed out, would bring the roadway closer to the manufacturing areas of the district. In addition, Cutrona said, the proposal could provide the means for reuniting long-divided sections of the community, and building connections between residential areas and the waterfront. The goal, he added, was to, Revitalize an area of Brooklyn fractured by having the Gowanus artery running through it. This goal is not a new one. Rather, it is shared by those who have spent the past couple of decades promoting a tunnel to replace the Gowanus viaduct. That proposal, as well as the replacement of the viaduct in kind, is currently being studied by the state Department of Transportation (DOT), though the issue of expense has continued to be significant. DOT has estimated that a tunnel would cost in the neighborhood of $14 billion, while a viaduct replacement would cost between $1.5 and $2 billion. What distinguishes the AIA proposal is its scope. Rather than limiting themselves to coming up with a replacement for the Gowanus, and redesigning the area that would be affected by the removal of the viaduct, the architects have gone several steps farther, tying in other aspects of the community into their visioning plan. Thus, beyond the removal of the viaduct, the construction of a new, airy roadway near the waterfront and a general expansion of open space, the proposal also includes a major shipping terminal on the waterfront, a waterfront park, expansion of Lutheran Medical Center and residential development, according to an information sheet on the proposal. In addition, said Cutrona, it is conceptualized to interface with the proposed Cross Harbor Tunnel that could someday connect Brooklyn, at the 65th Street railyards, to New Jersey and the rest of the mainland United States. The good that could come from this would be amazing, averred Cutrona. For Third Avenue, the project would involve a very significant facelift. While the architects involved, said Cutrona, had focused on the greening of Third Avenue, they did so while keeping in mind one of the key aspects of the thoroughfare that it handles vast amounts of traffic, and probably still would, even if the viaduct were moved elsewhere. For that reason, he noted, they had proposed lanes for pass-through traffic as well as local lanes, green areas and bike lanes. We were looking things that would improve the neighborhood for the future, explained Cutrona. Cutrona also said that the revamping of Third Avenue could enable it to mimic, in some ways, the segment of the strip that runs through Bay Ridge. Between 65th and 90th Streets, he pointed out, the thoroughfare has a plethora of appealing restaurants and shops. But, when you go below 65th Street, theres this blight. If something were done to change that, how wonderful that would be. Should they find favor, portions of the project could be enacted even if the project in its entirety is not, said Cutrona. Maybe people will embrace portions of the project, he remarked. The plan, he added, Will work, with or without the tunnel. Further study of those aspects would determine what the cost of implementing aspects of the plan would be. However, Cutrona said, the suspension roadway would be a reasonably cost-effective way of replacing the current, dilapidated viaduct. The reality is that there is no way that this would be as costly as a tunnel, he asserted. The AIA architects are currently in the process of presenting their plans to local stakeholders. They recently made a presentation to the Traffic and Transportation Committee of Community Board 10, and are looking to appear before both CB 6 and CB 7, To get feedback so we can refine what we have. Eventually, Cutrona said, the group would like to present its ideas, To people who would be empowered to improve Brooklyn.
©2008 Community News Group
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