Brooklyn Heights Hated the Promenade Almost as Much at the B.Q.E

Oh, the ironies of the rich.

When Robert Moses proposed a plan for the Brooklyn Queens Expressway to cut right through Brooklyn Heights, the local noblesse were in a rage. The solution was wrapping the highway around the tony neighborhood. Moses was even thoughtful enough to add the world-famous Promenade, beloved location of so many cinematographers, and still the locals were not happy.

That is part of the story delivered by Christopher Gray in his weekly Streetscapes column in The Times, wherein he tackles the knotty history of the highway. Of course, this was a matter of NIMBYism of the most extreme sort—those who would not be cut off by the highway were fine, but now that the promenade would abut some Heights homes, those living in them had some obvious problems.

The householders of the 1940s who lived on the bluff resented the intrusion of the road, even with a park on top, since they would lose privacy with the public traipsing back and forth along what had been their backyards. In 1943 Ferdinand Nitardy, an executive at the nearby Squibb pharmaceutical company, offered to waive condemnation costs for his rear yard if the Promenade was erased from the plan. But he and his neighbors did not prevail, and construction started in 1946.

Mr. Nitardy must have been particularly annoyed; he had just altered his old row house at 176 Columbia Heights in the Regency style, a crisp, attractive work by Stevenson & Studds. That firm had coincidentally worked on the F. D. R. Drive.

When the B. Q. E. opened in 1950, John Cashmore, borough president, predicted that the road-top park would soon be “as popular with Brooklyn residents as the boardwalk at Coney Island.”

Some residents were horrified at this prospect, decrying the “nightmare” of “promenaders peering into windows of homes and hoodlums shouting unseemly language,” according to an account in The Brooklyn Eagle quoted by Henrik Krogius in his new book, “The Brooklyn Heights Promenade.”

And yet now, and probably even then, the Promenade is a big part of the reason the neighborhood commands (almost) the highest prices in the borough.

mchaban [at] | @MC_NYC

Brooklyn Heights Hated the Promenade Almost as Much at the B.Q.E