Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Bridge Park presents Squibb Bridge reconstruction plan to CB2

April 16, 2019 Lore Croghan
The plan to replace the Squibb Bridge with a prefabricated steel bridge is expected to take until summer 2020. Rendering courtesy of Arup

Building a new Squibb Bridge from scratch makes sense in terms of dollars and cents — even if initially it will be more expensive than retrofitting the damaged wooden span. This is what Eric Landau, the president of Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, told Community Board 2 members on Monday night.

Knocking down the existing wood structure and replacing it with a prefabricated steel bridge will be an 18-month project with a $6.5 million price tag, Landau said at CB2’s Parks and Recreation Committee meeting.

The alternative was a yearlong, $4 million retrofit of the shut-down bridge. But a retrofitted bridge would require a significantly higher level of maintenance that over time would cost more than the $2.5 million in initial savings, he said.

Also, having a steel structure “would allow us to have certainty about the life of the bridge,” Landau explained.

Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation released new renderings of the steel bridge design on Monday, before CB2’s meeting. Park officials had announced in December that they planned to tear down and replace the trouble-plagued wooden bridge.

The pedestrian span hangs over Furman Street and connects Brooklyn Heights and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Here’s the design for a brand-new Squibb Bridge, as it will look from Furman Street. Rendering by Arup
Here’s the design for a brand-new Squibb Bridge, as it will look from Furman Street. Rendering by Arup

A bumpy few years

The aerial walkway has been closed since July 2018, when testing revealed “multiple pieces” of structural black locust timber had decayed or were soaked with “high levels of moisture,” Landau said.

Before that, Squibb Bridge was shut down between August 2014 and April 2017 because of safety concerns. Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation spent $3.4 million to retrofit the sagging span.

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Squibb Bridge’s original engineer, HNTB Corporation, paid Brooklyn Bridge Park nearly $2 million to settle a lawsuit concerning that bridge closure, Landau said.

“We’re pleased with the outcome,” he added.

A CB2 Parks and Recreation Committee member asked if it was possible to recover any more of the cash that’s been spent to deal with Squibb Bridge’s problems.

“There is no opportunity for us to go back to recoup any additional money,” Landau said.

This is the underside of the Squibb Bridge design as seen from a driveway at the Pierhouse condo development. Rendering by Arup
This is the underside of the Squibb Bridge design as seen from a driveway at the Pierhouse condo development. Rendering by Arup

Changes and holdovers

CB2 Parks and Recreation Committee members wondered what caused the decay of the black locust timber used to construct the bridge, which opened in 2013 and initially cost $4 million to build.

“There are lots of theories,” said Landau. “We may never know the real reason.”

Black locust was selected as a structural material for its “durability,” he said.

The new Squibb Bridge’s decking will be made of wood planks, which is also true of the existing bridge. In-ground concrete support structures from the existing bridge will remain in place when the new bridge is built.

The new bridge will follow the same 450-foot path as the existing bridge, which runs between two buildings in the Pierhouse hotel and condo complex and zig-zags into Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The original span was nicknamed the “bouncy bridge” because it sprang up and down when people and pets walked across. The new bridge is “not really going to bounce,” Landau said.

Looking past the obstacles

Workers will wait until fall to start demolishing the existing bridge because a crane must be used for its removal. It wouldn’t be a good idea to operate mammoth machinery in Brooklyn Bridge Park while it’s full of summer visitors, Landau explained.

He expects the new Squibb Bridge to open by summer 2020.

Landau said a plan to construct a swimming pool in Squibb Park will not interfere with Squibb Bridge’s construction timetable.

Nor will plans to rehab the BQE, which are being studied by a panel led by Carlo Scissura, the president and CEO of the New York Building Congress.

The 450-foot bridge presents some great views of the Manhattan skyline. Rendering courtesy of Arup
The 450-foot bridge presents some great views of the Manhattan skyline. Rendering courtesy of Arup

More park reconstruction planned

At Monday night’s CB2 Parks and Recreation Committee meeting, Landau also talked about Brooklyn Bridge Park’s plan to rip up its pedestrian and bike path’s gravelly surface and replace it with asphalt.

The material currently on the path is called “chip seal.” Cyclists and joggers have complained about the rough surface, a 2012 New York Post report says.

“Rumble strips” that act as speed bumps will also be torn up, Landau said.

The path is divided into separate pedestrian and bike lanes. But signage that says which lane is which is scarce, and people often get confused, he said.

To solve this problem, bike icons will be painted onto the cyclists’ lane at 200-foot intervals once the path is repaved with asphalt.

A study by traffic expert Sam Schwartz, which Landau presented at the meeting, indicates that pedestrians greatly outnumber cyclists on the path. So it’s going to be reconfigured with an 18- to 20-foot-wide lane for pedestrians and a 10- to 12-foot bike lane, Landau said. Currently, the pedestrian and bike lanes are both about 15 feet wide.

Work is expected to start this fall on the two-month repaving project, which will cost between $1.5 million and $2 million, Landau said.

The path is part of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, a 26-mile shoreline bike and pedestrian route from Greenpoint to Jamaica Bay.

Follow Brooklyn Eagle reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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