Simon says: Assemblywoman tells BPR a buried Gowanus Tunnel can still happen!

A decades-old dream of burying the hated Gowanus Expressway — a move that would free Brooklyn residents of choking pollution and remove an eyesore that has stunted the growth of Sunset Park for more than 50 years — is still alive, and one Brooklyn Heights Asssemblywoman wants to make it a reality.

Appearing on Brooklyn Paper Radio for the first time, Jo Anne Simon (D–Brooklyn Heights) told host Vince DiMiceli the plan the federal government quietly killed in 2011 is actually alive and well, and practically shovel-ready for any massive infrastructure projects President Trump wants to push through.

The key, Simon says, is moving the proposed tunnel from beneath Third Avenue to the harbor, where a straight connection can be made to the “trench” portion of the BQE just past Red Hook in Carroll Gardens.

“I’m still working on it,” she said. “You can call me ‘Queen of the Gowanus.’ ”

DiMiceli, who claimed he’d covered plans for “Brooklyn’s Big Dig” when he was a strapping young reporter back in the 1990s, was immediately on board.

“A Big Dig in Brooklyn would do wonders for Sunset Park,” DiMiceli said.

The Simon Tunnel Plan, as we’ll call it moving forward, came up thanks to an initial discussion about a common enemy — truck traffic in Brooklyn coming from Staten Island. That, Simon claimed, was the result of a disastrous move by then Staten Island Rep. Guy Molinari, who put a provision into a federal highway bill demanding the two-way toll on the VZ (as we sometimes call it) become Staten Island-bound only, which literally freed up trucks coming from points south with a less expensive route across the Narrows.

At the time, Molinari claimed removing the toll would decrease air pollution on Staten Island, where the then-hand-collected tolls did slow traffic across the island to the Goethals Bridge. Simon noted that was a reasonable point back then, but that the problem was eliminated earlier this year when toll booths were knocked down and replaced with a cashless system.

“The trucks are saving $80 to $100 a clip,” she said. “These roads not built for this kind of traffic, but the Jersey Turnpike was.”

Host, guest, and Brooklyn Paper reporter Julianne Cuba eventually got to the topic of the day, the triple cantilever of the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway, which city officials now say must be replaced or shored up by 2026, lest truck traffic be banned from the dilapidated highway.

And Simon pointed out when driving on the roadway beneath the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, it’s best to stay as far away from the harbor as possible.

“The roadway near the edges is not safe,” she said. “You want to stay near the wall.”

DiMiceli concurred.

“This is a life and death situation,” DiMiceli said. “It’s just a matter of time before that thing falls into Brooklyn Bridge Park.”

Simon, Cuba, and DiMiceli also discussed the residential towers going up at the foot of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Bridge Park, but to find out what they had to say about that, you’ll have to listen to the episode, as we are well past our word count for this “brief” summation of the show, which will undoubtedly be cut significantly for our print edition.

You decide: DiMiceli, who still demands a “soft focus,” in 1997 working the “cordless” phone at 26 Court St. His looks have been called “Clooney-esque” — by members of the advertising team.
Photo by Emanuel Brown

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