Whatever structural engineering issues are keeping the fancy $5 million Squibb Park Bridge (aka “Bouncy Bridge”) closed until spring must be pretty serious: repairing the distinctively bouncy pedestrian footbridge that failed after only a year will cost about $700,000, and it’s unclear when if ever the public will find out what exactly went wrong. That’s the word straight from the the leadership of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation at a public board meeting on Thursday (2/26).
The BBP board ended up approving the $700,000 repair job as an amendment to an existing contract. Yet when pressed by fellow BBP members about recouping the money or publishing findings on what exactly hobbled the 450-foot-long swaying suspension bridge, Brooklyn Bridge Park chair Alicia Glen and president Regina Myer attempted to deflect.
“One question there: we’re offering nearly $700,000 in repairs,” said BBP board member Zeeshan Ott during the meeting. “Is there any we can stipulate that that authorization is contingent on, also an investigation and a public report released on what exactly were the structural concerns there…?”
“Our focus is to get the bridge open and get it fixed,” replied Myer. “Yes, once we have it, um…” before trailing off and pivoting: “The goal is to open the bridge as quickly as possible. It is a very, very important and vital connection to the park. And we focused with our third party engineers on fixing the bridge as quickly as possible. And we have worked with our engineers to ensure we will look into that.”
Steven M. Cohen, BBP board member/lawyer and former top aide to Andrew Cuomo, tried to press the BBP leadership on the issue. “I think the request or question is: what are we doing to pursue recovery of what we’re paying for the remediation? I would assume that whether it was in the design, in the execution of the construction, something clearly went wrong which requires the remediation…”
“We are doing that,” said BBP’s legal counsel. “The priority from a public standpoint is to make sure the bridge is open as soon as possible. We are focused on that. We are not waving any of our legal rights against any parties who could potentially be responsible.”
“But again, just so we’re clear, the answer is you are pursuing that?” Cohen asked. “I understand the priority is opening the bridge, but…”
“We’re doing both at the same time,” Glen said. “We’re going to be getting the bridge open and simultaneously making sure we’re exercising any of our rights under the various assurance and potential claims…these things are not mutually exclusive.”
Ott then noted that it’s important that there’s public confidence in the bridge after it re-opens, and sensibly said that should come in the form of a public report. But when asked about this, Myer waffled, saying leadership had been focusing on using data they’ve gotten from monitoring the bridge, but that they would consider a report. A BBP spokesperson also told The Brooklyn Paper that “work on a study is ongoing” (The Brooklyn Paper’s words) and that repairs would begin soon.
While that report may still materialize and it remains to be seen what happens with recouping the costs of the repairs, the defensive crouching position that BBP park leadership seems to be taking surrounding the Squibb Park Bridge will only add fuel to critics of the board’s transparency (or lack thereof). Meanwhile, the bridge — which opened in March 2013 and closed in September 2014, initially for “2 to 3 weeks” — remains shuttered and off-limits.