The Forgotten Plan to Turn Atlantic Avenue Into a Superhighway

Atlantic Avenue in 1978. Photo via Forgotten NY. Traffic congestion via Wikipedia


    In 1970, local pols proposed to demolish a nine-mile stretch of supposedly decaying buildings along Atlantic Avenue, making room for a Robert Moses-esque eight-lane superhighway cutting through Brooklyn from East New York to Brooklyn Heights.

    The Atlantic Avenue Development Authority bill, sponsored by State Senator Waldaba Stewart and Assemblyman Thomas R. Fortune, proposed “rehabilitating” Atlantic Avenue from Furman Street to the water, as was reported in New York Magazine and elsewhere at the time. The bill would have resulted in thousands of homes being torn down in neighborhoods ranging from East New York to Bed Stuy to Cobble Hill, displacing an estimated 20,000 Brooklynites.

    atlantic avenue superhighway

    Protestor flier via the Brooklyn Historical Society’s archives. Photo by Hannah Frishberg

    The bill faced few hurdles in the state legislature, but was met with loud protests from affected residents, hundreds of whom demonstrated in Brooklyn and Albany, according to Suleiman Osman’s book, “The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification and the Search for Authenticity in Postwar New York.” As he describes it:

    When news of the proposed bill reached Brooklyn, 800 largely white middle class protestors from Brooklyn’s revitalizing enclaves halted traffic on Flatbush Avenue for a half hour with signs saying “Save Our Homes” and “No More Rocky Roads.” When a few days later, 600 protestors took buses to Albany, the State Senate withdrew the bill.

    Facing pressure from constituents, Stewart and Fortune eventually withdrew the bill, and Atlantic Avenue was saved from its traffic-happy makeover.

    What do you think? Can you imagine what Brooklyn would have been like with an Atlantic Avenue Expressway?

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    Another Life Lost on Atlantic Avenue

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