Plans for public pool at Squibb Park stalled due to BQE repairs

An old rendering of the pool in Squibb Park.
Brooklyn Bridge Park

Plans to build a public pool at Brooklyn Heights’ Squibb Park are on hold until officials settle on a finalized plan for dealing with the crumbling Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, according to the head of the local park keepers.

“We felt it was in everyone’s best interest to see how those BQE conversations will shake out, because the pool project could be impacted by the roadway design,” said Brooklyn Bridge Park president Eric Landau.

At the pool’s 2018 announcement, local state Sen. Brian Kavanagh said that he hoped to open the pool at the city-owned Middagh Street park by this summer — which would help replace the highly-popular pop-up pool at nearby Pier 2, where locals cooled off for seven summers, from 2012 until its final draining in 2018.

Brooklyn Bridge Park, the semi-private organization that manages the waterfront space, even tapped Fort Greene consultants Tythe Design to collect community input for the pool, which both parties hoped could hold between 150-300 people — more than double the maximum 60 people that were allowed in the cherished temporary bath.

But the green space gurus stopped short of sending out their request for an architect to design to the design the pool when Mayor Bill de Blasio halted the city’s controversial repair plans for the BQE’s triple cantilever section between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street in April 2019 — instead convening a so-called expert panel to study alternatives, which ended up lasting almost 10 months until January of this year.

That panel ultimately recommended shrinking the roadway from six to four lanes and upping enforcement of overweight trucks, saying that the crumbling cantilevered section will become unsafe by 2025.

The beleaguered expressway snakes underneath Columbia Heights right near Squibb Park — a swath of blacktop from where the soon-to-reopen Squibb Bridge zig-zags down to Brooklyn’s front yard — and Landau said he wanted to hold off on the pool plans, until the road repair process became more clear. 

“We didn’t want to design something and then have to change it again to adjust to the BQE repairs,” he said.

A council-commissioned report by engineering group Arup — who also designed the new Squibb Bridge — proposed a 10-year and up to $11 billion dollar project to bore a tunnel beneath brownstone Brooklyn to replace the BQE from Gowanus to Williamsburg.

But, other than potentially new weight-measuring technology on the expressway, not much has changed regarding plans for the BQE’s repair — especially with the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic throwing many city projects off schedule, and closing city pools for the summer.