Brooklyn Heights

Judge orders ‘bouncy’ Squibb Bridge design firm to allow Brooklyn Bridge Park access to key software

December 27, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
After being shut down more than two years ago, the lawsuit over “bouncy” Squibb Park Bridge, zig-zagging downward from Brooklyn Heights to Brooklyn Bridge Park, continues. Shown: An engineering team assesses the stability of the bridge in this photo taken last July. Photo by Mary Frost
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Attorneys representing Brooklyn Bridge Park (BBP) won a legal skirmish last week in the ongoing lawsuit against the engineering firm that designed the broken-down Squibb Park Bridge.

The once-popular “bouncy” bridge connected Brooklyn Heights to Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Justice Charles E. Ramos told HNTB Corporation, which designed the bridge, to allow engineers from the park’s consulting firm, the Arup Group, to use HNTB’s proprietary software to review key data files related to the bridge’s design.

HNTB is the firm run by MacArthur “Genius Award”-winner Ted Zoli. The $5 million pedestrian bridge was closed in August 2014, after the cables supporting it began to sag and the wooden walkway tilted south at the Squibb Park end.

In January 2016, BBPC filed a lawsuit against HNTB, claiming faulty design.

As part of the discovery process, HNTB delivered a large number of calculation files to the park but balked at providing their proprietary software. BBP argued that the software, called T187, was required to get at “the key calculations” in the case.

“In five cases, the calculations were performed using non-proprietary software, and BBP’s engineers arranged for the use of that software and the calculations are usable,” BBP’s attorneys said in a court filing. “In one case, the calculations were performed using defendant’s proprietary software. Those calculations—which, as it turns out, are the key calculations in this case—are unintelligible and unusable. Defendant has refused to provide reasonable access to the proprietary software, thwarting the very goal of discovery: uncovering the truth to be presented on motion or at trial.”

HNTB argued, however, that the proprietary software was not necessary to view the data.

In legal papers, HNTB said that the T187 data files already provided to the park “can be opened using commercially available programs (i.e. Microsoft Word or WordPad) and the pertinent information contained in the files is organized in a form that is discernable to a trained engineer.”

The company concluded that it has “fully complied with all of its discovery obligations and BBPC has been provided the information it claims it does not have.”

Despite HNTB’s assertion, engineers from Arup told the park’s attorneys that the T187 data files could not be opened without the special software.

“Arup spent over 24 workhours already attempting to do so with no tangible results. To continue this would be futile,” the park said in legal papers. “Without access to the T187 software, BBP is stymied in its effort to understand HNTB’s design for the bridge and its calculations supporting that design.”

The argument convinced Justice Ramos, who granted the park’s motion.

The bridge should reopen sometime next spring, park officials said in July. Arup will be designing a plan to fix the bridge, officials told The New York Times. The fix will involve, among other things, securing the connections between the timber trusses beneath the bridge and the suspension cables.

Doing so will improve the stability of the bridge and reduce the bounce by about 50 percent.

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