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Reimagining the Brooklyn Bridge

When you are the New York Landmarks Conservancy, you aren’t going to relocate the office to the suburbs or telecommute from Montana. We’re staying put—working to preserve a unique and livable City.

For all our belief in New York, the constant drumbeat of the problems we face can be wearing. So, I was surprised and pleased by how upbeat I ultimately felt as a juror for a design competition “Reimagining the Brooklyn Bridge.

Brooklyn Bridge

The Van Alen Institute and New York City Council sponsored the international competition. The Brooklyn Bridge is an engineering marvel, a National Historic Landmark, and recognized around the world as a symbol of the City. Participants were asked for ways to accommodate the thousands of daily pedestrians and cyclists on the bridge, transportation options, and creating healthy and safe environments. I’m afraid I began as the resident grouch.

Some of the early proposals piled on all sorts of structural additions to the bridge and instantly eliminated cars. I kept reminding everyone that the bridge is a beautiful landmark and didn’t need “gussying up.” More New Yorkers are riding bikes these days, but many people rely on cars and trucks so some amount of traffic will remain. As I groused about this to a colleague, he told me to “lighten up.”

The finalists are thoughtful, comprehensive, visionary, and respectful of the bridge. They are betting on New York. They envision a City with lots of public green space, community input, fewer cars, improved public transit. They understand phasing in changes. It is impressive work. It took a lot of time, research and effort. And it cheered me up.

See for yourself. The public gets to vote for the winners on the Van Alen Institute’s website until this Thursday. There are professional and young adult categories. I hope you’ll be cheered up too.

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