Brooklyn Boro

The Brooklyn Bridge is crowded. A new contest could change that.

February 11, 2020 Mary Frost
Brooklyn Bridge

Over the last few years, the historic Brooklyn Bridge walkway has become so jammed with pedestrians and cyclists that walking or riding across it has become stressful and even dangerous.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and a 125-year-old design nonprofit launched an international competition Tuesday to redesign the walkway.

Johnson and the Van Alen Institute, which was behind the redesign of Times Square, among other transformations, hope the “Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge” contest will spark “ingenious and provocative” designs.

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Using the bridge should be a pleasant experience, not a stressful one, Johnson said in a release Tuesday. “The longterm vitality of the Brooklyn Bridge is essential to our goal of being an environmentally sensitive, pedestrian friendly city.”

“In New York, we’re a deeply creative and ingenious city,” Van Alen’s executive director Deborah Marton told the Brooklyn Eagle. “That’s why we live here … Our capacity to imagine can exceed our expectations.”

The City Council and the Van Alen Institute want the public to think inclusively about “mobility and access, and accommodate commuters, visitors and vendors.”

When the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883, an “innumerable throng” crossed the bridge’s promenade, the historic Brooklyn Eagle reported in its exhaustive coverage of the event. “No more shall the river divide!” was the headline.

Before the coming of automobiles, roughly 425,000 people a day crossed the bridge, Marton said. “Now it’s only 125,000 since it’s been reconfigured.”


Related: Should tourists pay to cross the Brooklyn Bridge?

The city’s Department of Transportation says it’s willing to have a look at the ideas contestants come up with.

“As we undertake our own engineering inspection this year to help assess the capacity for changes to the promenade, we welcome new and innovative ideas on how to reimagine the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade to create more space for pedestrians and cyclists,” NYC DOT Chief Operations Officer Margaret Forgione said in a statement.

The general public, students and international competitors are welcome, and interdisciplinary teams are encouraged to enter. The proposed designs should focus on the bridge’s walkway, but can include recommendations for the bridge’s roadway and nearby public spaces, the organizers said. Proposals must be submitted by Sunday, April 5, at 11:59 pm ET. Winners will be announced in July.

Anyone can enter the contest. The competition has two categories: “Professionals,” for teams 22 years of age and above, and “Young Adults,” for teams 21 years of age and under. In recognition of their work, finalists in the “Professionals” category will receive $13,000 and finalists in the “Young Adults” category will receive $3,000.

Complete details at vanalen.org.


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4 Comments

  1. Reporter1

    There is a simple fix to this problem that would cost nothing and could be immediately implemented. All bike traffic should be diverted to the underutilized Manhattan Bridge walkways. One lane on that bridge could be designated for travel to Manhattan and the other for travel to Brooklyn. This would permit bikes to travel at high rates of speed. The Brooklyn Bridge should be dedicated to pedestrians. The impact that this “fix” would have in terms of travel times for bicycles would be minimal. According to Google maps, a cyclist who begins a trip at the beginning of the Brooklyn Bridge walkway can reach City Hall in 17 minutes. The same trip via the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade with take 10 minutes. There is no need to redesign the Brooklyn Bridge.

    • aconcernedneighbor

      Rerouting bikes won’t necessarily relieve the extreme congestion. While I agree that the Manhattan Bridge is underutilized, the Brooklyn Bridge is basically impassable in the summer and on weekends due to foot traffic. Not sure that adding lanes would alleviate the problem, but it would be great to have a lane or two for commutation only.