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Atlantic Avenue BID Plans to Improve BQE Underpass

BOERUM HILL — The Atlantic Avenue BID is applying for a city grant in hopes of making the underpass beneath the Brooklyn Queens Expressway more inviting to pedestrians and driving more foot traffic between the businesses along Atlantic Avenue and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Currently, the BQE creates a divide between the Brooklyn Bridge Park and the shopping strip on Atlantic Avenue, said Josef Szende, executive director of the Atlantic Avenue BID. Not to mention, because of a lack of signage, pedestrians at either location don’t have any way of knowing that there are opportunities on either side of the tunnel, he noted.

“The underside of the BQE is an unpleasant place to be or to walk through,” Szende said. “We want pedestrians to feel like that there’s something interesting or interactive all the way down Atlantic Avenue to Brooklyn Bridge Park.”

To gain funding and support, the Atlantic Avenue BID will be applying for an NYC Department of Small Business Services BID Challenge Grant, which would provide $75,000 toward the project.

Earlier this month, the BID met with urban designers of Planning Corps, a volunteer group that helps non-profits plan and resolve design issues, to brainstorm ideas of ways to make the tunnel under the BQE more interactive, appealing and useful to pedestrians passing through.

Although the project is still in its early stages, some ideas that came up during the brainstorming session include an interactive mural such as an I SPY game for children, an air pump station for cyclists, and light installations on the sidewalk. The BID also hopes to increase signage along the route to help pedestrians orient themselves.

“Wayfinding is an important part of this project,” Szende explained.

In June, the Department of Small Business Services challenged BIDs across the city to identify a neighborhood issue and to come up with a creative way to address it. The agency will fund the best proposal. The deadline for applications lands on the second week of September.

If the Atlantic Avenue BID’s proposal is chosen, the project is expected reach fruition by fall of next year.

“If a biker is coming off the Greenway at Brooklyn Bridge Park, it would be nice for him to know that there’s a bike shop for repairs right up Atlantic Avenue, or if he wants a bite to eat, there are plenty of restaurants,” said Eric Galipo, an urban designer and project manager at Planning Corp. “The Department of Transportation has made some improvements there, and has made the underpass technically more safer for pedestrians, but not any more inviting.

“We’re hoping to use the tunnel to create more of a transitory experience.”