Bridge too far? Squibb-to-Bklyn-Bridge-Park footpath costs soar

Bridge from Squibb Park to Brooklyn Bridge Park will cost $4.9M
Courtesy of HNTB Corporation

The cost of a proposed footbridge from Brooklyn Heights to Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1 — a key amenity for residents seeking quick access to the world-class park — jumped 26 percent after park officials upgraded the design then failed to find a contractor who could meet the original budget.

On Monday, Brooklyn Bridge Park announced that Kelco Construction won a $6.2-million contract to design the Squibb Park Bridge, a 400-foot timber structure that will link Columbia Heights to the verdant park below that was budgeted to cost $4.9 million.

City planning experts called the 26-percent cost increase common in city government but still significant.

“This is a big miss, and when they miss it by that much there’s got to be a goddamned good reason,” said former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who is now a fellow at the NYU Wagner School for Public Service. “Sometimes development [agencies] lowball figures because they want to make the project seem smaller.”

Officials at Brooklyn Bridge Park said that the $4.9-million estimate was for the bridge and design “soft costs,” but that the project has evolved to include more lighting, handicapped accessibility and upgrades to Squibb Park’s existing infrastructure.

“As with any competitive bidding process, the market dictates actual costs,” said park spokeswoman Ellen Ryan.

The bridge — which will be completed by next fall and zigzag between the future luxury condo and hotel complex at Pier 1 — won’t increase the park’s construction budget but will instead be paid for with funds in reserve.

A former city official, who asked not to be named, said that $4.9 million “sounded too low for the bridge,” and that the over-budgeting was “not at all surprising.”

The former official said that city agencies will often narrow the scope of a project — or scrap it altogether — to make up for funding gaps. For instance, when the MTA was extending the No. 7 train to Times Square in 2008, it killed one of two stations in the project to save money.

The Squibb Park Bridge has always had a rocky road to funding. In 2009, Mayor Bloomberg trimmed $8 million from Brooklyn Bridge Park’s construction budget, killing the footbridge until the Council and Borough President Markowitz allocated money the following year.

Roy Sloane, president of the Cobble Hill Association, said the bridge was mainly an amenity to the future hotel slated for Pier 1 and should be paid for by a developer, not city taxpayers.

“Why can’t the hotel build its own bridge?” Sloane said. “This is the kind of cost inflation the park has incurred all along, only to suit a massive real estate development.”

Reach Kate Briquelet at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.