Kriston Capps is a staff writer for CityLab covering housing, architecture, and politics. He previously worked as a senior editor for Architect magazine.
This bridge would restore a link between Brooklyn and Governors Island.
New York hasn’t built a bridge in more than half a century. The next one could could look unlike anything the city has seen before.
“Citizen Bridge”—a proposal to build a floating pedestrian bridge between Governors Island and Red Hook in Brooklyn—is still a ways off from becoming a reality. But it is about to inch that much closer. A Kickstarter campaign to build a seventh prototype is just a few thousand dollars shy of its $25,000 goal, with about a week left to go.
Nancy Nowacek, a designer and fellow at Eyebeam, began working on her Citizen Bridge proposal in 2012. Since then, she’s met with regulators, structural and marine engineers, and architects to solve a riddle: Could New York build a modular, low-impact, low-cost bridge that might serve the city for only one day?
Six prototypes later, the answer might be yes. Her project team includes some of the best minds anyone could bring to bear on a bridge project, from structural engineering (Thornton Tomasetti and Glosten) to design (Jonathan Marvel of Marvel Architects). According to the campaign, though, the bulk of the work has been performed by nearly 200 volunteers.
“Normally, large pieces of infrastructure are instruments of political will; in this case, Citizen Bridge is an act of community goodwill,” the pitch reads.
Infrastructure might be too strong a word for Citizen Bridge. As Nowacek explains, a sandbar once connected Governors Island and Brooklyn; farmers sometimes walked theirs cows across Buttermilk Channel using the land bridge. This proposal would restore that pedestrian thoroughfare. But since it would involve closing Buttermilk Channel to do so, the bridge would only stand (or float) for one day.
The organizers hope to build out the installation by summer 2017. If Citizen Bridge raises the money it needs for the next prototyping phase, it will build out a 100-foot-long floating prototype in the water—a proof of concept for the entire bridge. Consider it an exercise in structural art or experiential engineering.