When the $5 million Squibb Pedestrian Bridge—which serves as a third connection from Brooklyn Heights to Brooklyn Bridge Park—first opened in 2013, it seemed like a fun attraction, if not completely necessary. A year later, the bridge (at that point known for its bounce) closed due to warping. A year after that, it was still closed. Then Brooklyn Bridge Park sued the engineer for the allegedly shoddy job, and by 2017 the cost of the bridge was up to $6.6 million after repair work. It briefly reopened around then, before closing again, and then was fully torn down in October of 2019.
And now the entire bridge has been rebuilt from scratch (at the cost of around $6.5 million) — it's no longer bouncy, but just as narrow as it ever was, which may have you wondering: why open now, during a global pandemic of which New York City is the epicenter and our survival depends on New Yorkers social distancing?
The bridge is just 9-feet wide, the width of an average city sidewalk, so once you factor in people there's no way to keep 6-feet away if you need to pass by someone, which you will, as this is a two-way bridge. Unlike a sidewalk, where you can dart into the road if there are no cars, or cross the street to avoid people, once you're on the bridge there's no escaping, especially from those pesky mask-less runners who have a habit of appearing out of thin air.
Today was opening day of the new new Squibb Bridge and people were already out using it, despite the dreary, drizzly weather. There weren't big crowds, like there will be once a warm weekend hits, but it was impossible for anyone to social distance, given the narrowness of the bridge.
Sarah Krauss of Brooklyn Bridge Park Squibb Bridge and people were already out using it, despite the dreary, drizzly weather. There weren't big crowds, like ther will be once a warm weekend hits, but still, it was impossible for anyone to social distance, given the narrowness of the bridge.. The width of the bridge is 9 feet, similar to many city sidewalks. Our team is wiping down handrails daily in the park, including the bridge. Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) is patrolling the entire park throughout the day, including the bridge now that it is open."
Patrick Killackey of North Heights Neighbors Community Group told Gothamist, "It will be a challenge for Brooklyn Bridge Park to maintain social distancing on Squibb Bridge. The diversion of NYPD resources to other needs may also affect public safety in Squibb Park, which is a difficult-to-patrol space. However, North Heights Neighbors recognizes how important Park access is, especially at this difficult time. And we even realize that Squibb Bridge may provide a net social distancing benefit by relieving crowding on other pathways to the park, like Joralemon. So we are counting on BBP to do whatever is necessary to maintain safety."
When I walked over to Squibb Bridge on Monday around 1:30 p.m., at least 10-15 people were on it at one time, including a runner without a mask, several people stopping in the middle of the bridge to take photos (this is more of a non-essential Instagram attraction than anything), and several unmasked children breezing by older adults. There was no enforcement of social distancing, nor anyone around to enforce it. When I asked how the BBPC plans to enforce social distancing and masks, or if they would consider a ban of running/jogging on the bridge, Krauss reiterated the above, saying, "Our enforcement staff is patrolling the entire park, including Squibb Bridge. We have signage up throughout the entire park, and at all entry points to the bridge about social distancing and wearing face coverings."
As we've seen time and again, even when enforcement is promised or signs are put up, the reality is that there will be some people ignoring it, with no enforcement in sight.
When Curbed reported that the bridge would be reopening last week, Eric Landau, the president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, said, "We are very pleased that the bridge is done, and we also think right now, as social distancing is important, that it’s important to give people different ways of getting in and out of the park." This is definitely a different way of getting into the park, and a riskier one.