Meet the new bridge, same as the old bridge.
The Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation will reopen the Squibb Bridge on May 4, after a years-long debacle to replace the original, structurally flawed crossing. The zig-zagging walkway provides a direct connection from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade to Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1.
“The new bridge has the same overall aesthetic feeling of the previous bridge that people loved, with full functionality,” says Eric Landau, the president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation.
The replacement bridge, which was designed by Arup and constructed by Turner, purposefully mimics the look and feel of the first span, albeit from structurally sound metal rather than timber. The original was made from black locust, a typically hardy wood, but was beset with difficulties almost as soon as it debuted some seven years ago.
Arup utilized the existing support pillars from the first bridge, which sweeps over Furman Street, but prefabricated the rest of the new structure offsite. The trusses that support the bridge are made from metal, but the pathway itself utilizes wood. The reopening of the new 450-foot path comes just as warmer weather begins to lure more New Yorkers out of their apartments and to the waterfront park.
On nicer days, Brooklyn Bridge Park has seen a surge in visitors amid the novel coronavirus pandemic and has closed several spots throughout the green space where social distancing is impractical or downright impossible, such as the basketball and volleyball courts, the picnic peninsula, and the dog run.
Landau says the bridge’s reopening, which is happening several weeks ahead of schedule, comes at a crucial time to ensure visitors have plenty of space to safely travel in and out of the park.
“We are very pleased that the bridge is done, and we also think right now, as social distancing is important, that it’s important to give people different ways of getting in and out of the park,” says Landau.
The original bridge was designed by Ted Zoli of HNTB and opened to the public in 2013. But by 2014, it had closed for what was supposed to be a short time for repairs estimated at $700,000. The span ultimately stayed closed until April 2017 and cost $3 million to fix.
In that nearly three-year period, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation filed a $3 million lawsuit against HNTB for poor execution of a flawed design. (The case was settled “with no admission of liability on either side,” Landau previously told Curbed.) But the bridge was only open for 15 months, and has since been closed for longer than it was ever open.
Now, the infamous bounce of the former Squibb Bridge, once a selling point, is no longer a reality. But on the flipside, “we’re confident about its longevity,” according to Landau.
The Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation is also making strides on completing the last major component of the waterfront park: reimagining the space underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. This week, Landau presented plans to Brooklyn Community Board 2 with a vision for a plaza, tranquil pathways, and more green space snaking under the 137-year-old landmark.
“This will provide direct connectivity, and equally important, it’s two more acres of park land in this historic space that is right under the bridge,” says Landau. “It’s really going to be a magical place.”
The corporation will present its plans to the Landmarks Preservation Commission in the coming months and aims to break ground on the project in the fall with an expected completion of December 2021.