Brooklyn Heights

After 3 years, Squibb Park Bridge reopens in Brooklyn (Just not so bouncy)

Connects Brooklyn Heights to Brooklyn Bridge Park

April 19, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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After being shut down in 2014, “bouncy” Squibb Park Bridge once again connects Brooklyn Heights to Brooklyn Bridge Park. The popular 450-foot-long wooden bridge reopened Wednesday, to the delight of park goers.

The bridge is less bouncy than it was before repairs, but much more stable, engineers from Arup, the engineering firm brought in by the park for repairs told the Brooklyn Eagle.

The $4.1 million pedestrian bridge was closed after the cables supporting it began to sag and the wooden walkway tilted south at the Squibb Park end. Its reopening was delayed several times over the years for murky reasons, and litigation is still ongoing with the firm that designed it, HNTB Corporation. HNTB is headed by MacArthur “genius”-winner Ted Zoli. In January 2016, BBP hired global engineering firm Arup to plan and oversee repairs.

“We’re really excited to reopen Squibb Bridge at Brooklyn Bridge Park,” said David Lowin, vice president for real estate at Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (BBPC) and recent interim president. “It’s been closed for three years. When it opened it became an immediate attraction to the park. People loved it. It was another way to get to the park, it increased accessibility and also provided a fun new attraction.

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“A lot of people though the bridge bounced too much and it was not comfortable,” he said. “We’d see dogs walking along the bridge and stopping and freezing.”

After the fix, the bridge is not as bouncy as it was before, he confirmed. “As you walk by you can still feel a little bit of the springiness, but it is much less bouncy.”

The loss of bounciness didn’t appear to bother Lowin’s children Sophie and Eitan, who were thrilled to jump up and down on the wooden walkway as photographers and film crews milled around.

How long will the bridge last?

David Farnsworth, Arup’s principal engineer on the project, said the bridge “underwent excessive deformation” after it first opened.

“So we closed it and made a number of retrofit modifications to address the instability. We also put in a T-mass damper on each of the main spans, so it is a lot less bouncy than it was before.”

The timber is the limiting factor to longevity, and “some of the timber elements will need to be replaced over the course of decades,” Farnsworth said. “No more major closures are expected,” though there may be short closures for maintenance and inspections.

Arup has worked on footbridges all over the world, Farnsworth said, but “never an underslung suspension timber bridge” like Squibb Park Bridge. “This is a very unique bridge, and very beautiful.”

David Mills, director of Gardiner & Theobald, which manages all the park’s capital projects, said the bridge had an expected 25- to 30-year life cycle, and maintenance would be ongoing, with yearly inspection.

“We’re very enthusiastic about this to provide the pedestrian link between Brooklyn Heights and the lower promenade at the river,” Mills said.

Repairs to the bridge cost roughly $2.5 million. Lowin said the park hopes to recoup that amount in the ongoing lawsuit.

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