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Atlantic Avenue BID Secures Funding to Improve BQE Underpass

By Heather Holland | December 12, 2012 9:23am

BROOKLYN — The Atlantic Avenue BID’s vision of transforming the BQE underpass is one step closer to reality.

Last week, the NYC Department of Small Business Services awarded the business improvement district $75,000 for a project that aims to redesign the BQE underpass in the hopes of increasing foot traffic between the businesses along Atlantic Avenue and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Currently, the BQE creates a divide between Brooklyn Bridge Park and the shopping strip on Atlantic Avenue, said Josef Szende, executive director of the Atlantic Avenue BID. And 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 there’s something interesting or interactive all the way down Atlantic Avenue to Brooklyn Bridge Park.”

In August, the BID worked with an organization called Planning Corps, a volunteer group of urban designers that helps nonprofits plan and resolve design issues, to brainstorm ways to make the tunnel under the BQE more interactive, appealing and useful to pedestrians passing through.

Although the concept is still in the early stages, Planning Corps designers have created a rough rendering of what an improved BQE underpass might look like.

The plan includes a portion with colorful artwork along the walls called the “funderpass” and a bike pumping station. The design also calls for additional signage along the underpass that would direct pedestrians where to find attractions at both Brooklyn Bridge Park and Atlantic Avenue.

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

Now that the BID has received sufficient funding for the project, the BID is partnering with the Design Trust for Public Spaces — a New York City-based nonprofit organization that does research, design and planning of projects — who will draft a ready-to-build design that could be implemented by the end of 2013, Szende explained.

Groundswell, a city-based nonprofit organization that makes murals, will be working with the BID to create artwork on the walls of the underpass within the 2013 deadline.

During the design process, the BID will be holding meetings with the local community to gather input before submitting the design to various city agencies for approval, said Szende.

"Atlantic Avenue is an important commercial corridor that serves as more than just the entrance to Pier 6 — it also acts as the gateway to the southern portion of the park," said Regina Myer, president of Brooklyn Bridge Park, in a written statement. "Beautifying the area beneath the BQE will not only attract more park visitors, it will also offer many more opportunities for us to work closely with our neighbors along Atlantic Avenue."