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Group Battling de Blasio’s Promenade Plans Enlists Region’s Most Prominent Planning Group

POLITICO
BY DANA RUBINSTEIN
JANUARY 10, 2019

A band of Brooklyn Heights residents has enlisted New York’s most prominent planning group in a bid to kill a city proposal that might temporarily replace the Brooklyn Promenade with a six-lane highway, in order to repair the expressway below.

“It’s not like I have a secret design in my back pocket, but it’s clear to us there should be more options on the table that aren’t there right now,” said Tom Wright, president and CEO of the venerable Regional Plan Association, in an interview Thursday.

Brooklyn Heights is an expensive neighborhood to live in, and its newly formed nonprofit, A Better Way, appears to be sparing no cost in its effort to defeat Mayor Bill de Blasio’s more-than-$3 billion plan. It’s paying the RPA about $30,000 for its efforts, Wright said.

It’s also hired Mercury Public Affairs, a public relations firm that represents Charter Communications, and lobbyists from Capalino and Company — a high-powered outfit that counts Airbnb as a client. Lobbying records indicate A Better Way paid Capalino $40,000 in the last two months of 2018 alone.

“While Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo is bringing in outside help to avoid the devastating consequences of closing L-Train service, Mayor de Blasio is ramming through a closed-door plan that will increase pollution and traffic,” said former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Hilary Jager, one of the women running A Better Way. “Theirs is a plan that looks to the past for inspiration. Together with the RPA, we challenge the City to plan for the future.”

A spokesperson for the city’s Transportation Department had no immediate comment.

The Robert Moses-era structure carries 150,000 vehicles a day and is in such a sorry state that city officials say it will have to divert truck traffic onto local streets in 2026. Wright and his colleague Kate Slevin say their main goal is to find ways the city might reduce traffic on the cantilevered Brooklyn-Queens Expressway that supports the Promenade. Should the city find ways to do so, it might no longer need as many lanes to carry that traffic during its reconstruction.

Things like congestion pricing, high-occupancy vehicle restrictions and two-way Verrazzano tolls weren’t “accounted for in the city study,” said Slevin, a senior vice president at the Regional Plan Association.

“We just want to see if there are options for getting some of the traffic volumes down to allow a different design, maybe fewer lanes on the roadway, so it wouldn’t be such a large impact,” she added.