Artist Hopes to Raise $25K to Build a Pedestrian Bridge from Red Hook to Governors Island

April 22, 2016

From her back window on Columbia Street in Brooklyn, artist Nancy Nowacek could see Governors Island and Buttermilk Channel (the strait connecting Brooklyn to the island), and it seemed incredibly close. In fact, it’s the equivalent of only about four city blocks away. So since 2012, Nowacek has been working on her vision of building Citizen Bridge over New York Harbor, a floating modular pedestrian bridge over the 1,400-foot span from Red Hook to Governor’s Island.

In what is currently planned as a one-day-only event, she sees Citizen Bridge as a completely new way to experience New York City harbor, rather than seeing it from the shore, from a bridge above, or from a boat. As noted by Mental Floss, Nowacek has turned to Kickstarter to raise money for a pilot phase. The project’s goal of $25,000 would fund a proof-of-concept, which is the final phase before launching for real.  So far, they’ve prototyped seven bridge designs in full-scale sections.

Citizen Bridge Pathway Sketch

Nowacek isn’t the first to propose a connection to the island: Robert Moses (of course) had envisioned a superhighway bridge, and the architect Santiago Calatrava had imagined a “futuristic gondola.” When Nowacek presented her ideas to the Coast Guard and the Waterway Management Division, they advised her on some real-life possibilities–they could imagine closing Buttermilk Channel to traffic, but for just one day.

Citizen Bridge Pics

Thus the idea of Citizen Bridge was born. Nowacek chose the bridge’s name because of of the group effort required to make it a reality: “The bulk of the work on this project has been entirely volunteer-based with nearly 200 individuals—from neighborhood kids to writers and boat captains—across various backgrounds giving their expertise and time.” She has also gotten help from local developers like Two Trees Management, major arts institutions, and the Brooklyn Arts Council as well.

Though the Citizen Bridge would be a one-day-only event (the strait is actually a working commercial waterway) the bridge would be reassembled for one day each year, with events planned around that one-day event. Currently, the initial launch is planned for August 2017. Looking further ahead, inspired by New York City’s Summer Streets program, Citizen Bridge hopes to become Summer Waterways, a chance for people to experience waterways free from large commercial marine traffic.

The initial Kickstarter campaign ends Friday, May 20. Several reward levels are offered, but one of the more intriguing rewards comes with pledges of $150 or more: Nowacek will do some virtual bridge-building–or burning–on your behalf: “Is there someone or something with whom you want to connect, or reconnect, or disconnect completely (and dramatically?) The artist will send an email on your behalf.” The goal is to raise $25,000 by May 20th. As of the time of publication, 82 backers have pledged a total of $4,748.

Find out more about Citizen Bridge here and the Kickstarter campaign here.


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