A key element of our critique is the proposed berm. Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines a 'berm' as:
1: a narrow shelf, path, or ledge typically at the top or bottom of a slope; also: a mound or wall of earth or sand.The berm proposed for the park would be a long, thirty-foot-high mound that would run along the upland portion of the park parallel to the BQE. It will take up a lot of land and be off-limits to park users. What is its purpose then? The park's designers claim that it will act as a sound attenuator for the noise from the BQE. We don't believe it.
2: the shoulder of a road.
We object to the berm for the following reasons:
1. No one has convincingly demonstrated that it will achieve the proposed level of sound attenuation or that that level, even if possible, would be worth the costs.The state Department of Transportation has begun a study to decide how to renovate the BQE's triple-cantilever structure. The triple-cantilever includes the Promenade and the two levels of highway beneath it. The study is scheduled to conclude in 2017. (Yes, that's a long time.) Covering the roadway is one of the options that the DOT study group will consider.
2. The land that it will occupy and render off-limits could be put to better use.
3. It will turn Furman Street into a dark cavern.
4. The coming renovation of the BQE could result in a covered roadway anyway, thus obviating the need for the berm.
We can make a covered roadway a more likely outcome if we begin working now to generate Brooklyn-wide consensus on its desirability. The CHA is beginning that work now, eight years ahead of time. We believe that the park's success depends in part on the quiet that a covered BQE would make possible. And if we can create that consensus, convince our elected officials to join us, and get the roadways covered, then for sure we will not need a berm that wastes valuable parkland. Let's use that land for recreation instead.
And we are not the only ones with this idea. The Brooklyn Paper recently reported that Donald Rattner of the Studio for Civil Architecture has proposed
'a solar-panel-covered envelope to encase the highway. The proposal calls for wrapping the BQE’s triple cantilever in translucent acrylic shells to suppress roadways sounds, allowing the builders of the open space component of the ailing waterfront development to eliminate the planned sound-stifling hills.'We look forward to seeing their proposal and any other ideas for eliminating the wasteful berm from the park, with or without a covered BQE. But if we start working now to convince the DOT to cover the BQE, we can potentially have the best of both options.