Fancy Heights walkway won’t get high fence

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

A proposed city law intended to protect walkers, cyclists and drivers from projectile-hurling delinquents would require pedestrian overpasses to be flanked with tall fencing — except for the expensive footbridge planned to connect Brooklyn Heights with Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Eleven councilmembers including Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) are pushing for a bill that requires the city to install inward-curved, 8-foot-tall fences on footbridges crossing over streets after attacks against cyclists from a walkway between two Fort Greene housing projects and a Manhattan incident in which children dropped a shopping cart onto a woman.

The proposed legislation applies to “bridges between buildings” and overpasses “under the jurisdiction” of the city — but doesn’t include the much-anticipated $6.2 million footbridge designed to link Squibb Park to Brooklyn Bridge Park above Furman Street, according to architects in charge of the project.

Footbridge designer and MacArthur “genius” Ted Zoli says his planned walkway will skirt the proposed bill — which goes to vote next week — due to a rare and controversial partnership between the city and the private developers building Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, which hired Zoli and his team of architects, is in charge of the footbridge design and was not required to get Department of Transportation approval for its fencing.

“It was specifically not included because the city did not review the bridge for compliance,” he said.

Zoli’s meandering locust plank footbridge doesn’t look much like the drab overpass on Navy Street between Tillary and Myrtle streets where the city recently installed a taller mesh fence — one that critics say looks like it belongs in a jail — after kids injured and terrorized at least seven cyclists.

But the fencing discrepancy irks transportation safety advocates and park-boosters, who say the rule should be upheld on every pedestrian overpass citywide — no matter if it’s in posh Brooklyn Heights or between the Ingersoll and Walt Whitman projects.

“The less protection you have, the more likely the attacks will happen again,” said Stephen Arthur, a cyclist who was hit with a brick in Fort Greene. “Are they trying to send the message that one ‘type’ of person is more likely to commit this crime?”

Others say the problem is the lack of oversight bred by the public-private Brooklyn Bridge Park project.

“The city should have already considered this,” said Roy Sloane of the Brooklyn Bridge Park’s advisory council. “But [the developers] have been able to evade scrutiny from public bodies for years.”

Ellen Ryan, a spokeswoman for Brooklyn Bridge Park, said “it’s premature to speculate” on the bill. Lander did not return calls by press time.

But even park advocates say the whole thing smacks of unfairness.

“If it’s about safety then why should this park be exempt?” said Tony Manheim said of the Park’s advisory council.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.