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New York Artist Eyes Floating Bridge

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

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Most bridge projects are undertaken with a goal of longevity, but a proposed bridge in one Brooklyn neighborhood is only intended to last one day.

Artist Nancy Nowacek started a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to bring to life what she calls “Citizen Bridge,” a “floating pedestrian bridge.” The bridge would connect the Red Hook neighborhood with Governors Island, a 140-foot span, and the artists hopes for it to connect New Yorkers back to their waterways as well.

Citizen Bridge rendering
Images: Citizen Bridge

The bridge would be crafted of buoyant floats, two-by-four framing, plywood decking and lightweight railing.

Governors Island is a 172-acre island, currently used as a park. (Historically, it was both farmland and, in several different iterations, a military post.) It’s a short distance from both Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, but is only accessible by ferry.

Nowacek says she’s read old news clippings that make reference to a sand bar between the Governors Island and Red Hook, which was used by farmers to get cows to and from the island at low tide. That’s long gone, but Nowacek wants to create a temporary bridge on the site, bringing back the days when you could hoof it to the island.

Making a Funding Goal

Her Kickstarter campaign netted its $25,000 goal (finishing up with $25,631 total), and Nowacek has been working on the project for four years, bringing in experts like engineering firms Glosten and Thornton Tomasetti, and real estate developer Two Trees Management.

The bridge, as the design stands now, would be crafted of buoyant floats, two-by-four framing, plywood decking and lightweight railing.

Map of proposed Citizen Bridge site

The bridge would connect the Red Hook neighborhood with Governors Island.

According to Nowacek’s plan, the bridge would only be in place for one day, because it would be blocking any traffic on Buttermilk Channel, the waterway it would be floating on. But she hopes to have it return once a year, as an event to get New Yorkers to spend time on the water.

Island Connections

It’s not the first time a connection to the mainland has been proposed for Governors Island: In 2011, a Columbia University research group suggested connecting the island to Lower Manhattan using a land bridge made of fill.

That would have been a permanent attachment, though, and was meant to spur development on the island. The idea behind Citizen Bridge is less economic, more conceptual.

“It is designed to create an intimate experience of being with the water, rather than seeing it from the shore, above from a bridge, or in transport by boat or ferry,” the project Kickstarter reads.

Of course, any big project has its inherent risks—especially one like this. “Because Citizen Bridge defies standard permitting categories,” the Kickstarter campaign notes, “obtaining the necessary permits and/or insurance for this phase of the project may cause unforeseen delays.”


Tagged categories: Artists; Bridges; Infrastructure; North America; Program/Project Management

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