Say “bridge” and most people think “cars.” But Squibb Park Bridge connecting Brooklyn Heights to Brooklyn Bridge Park will be strictly for the walking public. “Pedestrian connectivity is the challenge of the next generation,” said Ted Zoli, technical director for bridges at HNTB. “In an urban environment it makes less and less sense for pedestrians to take back seat.”
As Brooklyn Heights Promenade clears the Brooklyn Queens Expressway before ramping down into Squibb Park, the small park seemed a logical takeoff point for a new bridge to connect the promenade with the new riverside park. Initial plans called for a straight and steep shot descending between the property lines of two development parcels. But Zoli saw an opportunity in an abandoned little sliver of green between the BQE and Furman Street below. The designer proposed a meandering path that would take visitors out into the tree tops of the small sliver, then track back across Furman at an angle, before turning again to clear the property lines of the parcels. The bridge then takes a sharp turn north before merging into a landscaped slope and, eventually, the park itself. The extra turns make the 400-foot-long expanse particularly wheelchair-friendly, allowing for a 5 percent grade drop from a 32 foot height. The two main spans are 240 feet long and will be assembled off site for quick installation.
Concrete piers hoist the wood-framed bridge high above the park blending it into the hard surfaces of Squibb Park and the BQE. By using the same black locust wood found throughout Brooklyn Bridge Park, Zoli chose a sustainable and untreated material often overlooked for urban bridges. As a practical matter the lightweight wood is also perfect for soil conditions that Zoli described as terrible for supporting substantial weight.
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“We certainly built wood bridges in our past, and many of these bridges last hundreds of years,” said Zoli, who grew up hiking the Adirondacks and was inspired by trail bridges. The wooden spans incorporate commercial off-the-shelf pipes for connections and galvanized steel for handrails. “We struggled a bit with the piers,” said Zoli. “At one point we had timber piers and followed the logic of a pier-and-cable bridge. But there needed to be a robustness to them, a good strong foundation.”
“The Squibb Park Bridge is not only a remarkably beautiful amenity but a key connector between Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Brooklyn Heights and adjacent communities served by the A/C and 2/3 subway lines,” said Brooklyn Bridge Park President Regina Myer. She credits the Borough President Marty Markowitz and the New York City Council with securing the $4.9 million needed to build the bridge, which is expected to open next summer.