City launches competition to redesign notoriously-packed Brooklyn Bridge walkway

Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge walkway in February.
Photo by Amalia Arms

The city launched an international competition to redesign the Brooklyn Bridge’s notoriously overcrowded walkway on Tuesday.

City Council and the urban design advocacy non-profit Van Alen Institute set up the contest seeking submissions from people to revamp the pathway across Brooklyn’s namesake span, which is frequently over-crowded with tourists, commuters, and cyclists. 

The contest, dubbed “Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge” calls for submissions by April 5, which a nine-member jury will evaluate.

The brief is for a new and unconventional design that makes the crossing safer and more accessible, better for the environment, and safe, while respecting the iconic bridge’s landmark status and accommodating commuters, visitors, and vendors.

The path is currently divided in half , with pedestrians on one side and a two-way bike lane on the other, and it is regularly swamped by tourists, who make a bad habit of congesting both sides of the promenade, according to one Crown Heights resident crossing the bridge Tuesday afternoon.

“Right now the traffic isn’t that bad because of the weather, but in the summertime it’s atrocious,” said Monica LeBron.

A handful of small three-wheeled mini police patrol cars frequently take up at least one of the lanes too.

As a result, commuters are forced to come up with creative solutions to get through the squeeze, including one biker who sang his way through the crowd.

One Midwood commuter said he had several accidents while crossing the bridge on his bike, injuring his head and fracturing his hand in the process.

“The Brooklyn Bridge was the most dangerous part of my commute,” said Glen Stephens.

Stephens said there should be some sort of barrier between pedestrians and bikers to prevent further collisions.

Midwood resident Glen Stephens said the bridge was the most dangerous part of his bike commute.Photo by Amalia Arms

Contestants should focus on the walkway but can also include recommendations for the two roadways flanking the boardwalk along with nearby public spaces.

The jury will pick six finalists — three aged 22 years or older, each of whom will receive $13,000, and three 21 years or younger, each of whom will get $3,000.

The jurors includes conservationists, architects, transportation advocates, an architecture student, a Manhattan district leader, the president of the Downtown Brooklyn business boosting group Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, and the editor of the news site Curbed NY, Amy Plitt.

The finalists will work with Van Alen and Council to further develop their ideas for two months and will present their proposals at a public event in mid-July and the public will help choose one winner for both the younger and the older finalists through an online vote.

If you’re interested in submitting a proposal please upload it here by 11:59 pm Eastern Time on Sunday, April 5, 2020.

For questions about the contest, you can reach out to competitions@vanalen.org by March 6 and responses will be posted on the organization’s site the following week.

The city’s Department of Transportation previously studied expanding the walkway in 2016 to no avail.