On a figurative level, the Monkey is all about bridging the gaps between peoples and places. On a literal level, these photos focus on a few of the 2,000 bridges between places in New York City.
The Brooklyn Bridge is New York’s most famous bridge. It connected Brooklyn Heights with Lower Manhattan over the East River, providing an alternative to the ferries that plied the river in the mid 19th Century. Engineered by John Roebling, the bridge’s construction lasted 14 years and required numerous innovations. Roebling pioneered steel ropes, which were anchored at each end of the bridge and run over towers in order to “suspend” the roadway beneath. His Brooklyn Bridge was the first steel rope suspension bridge.
To build the underwater foundations for its granite towers, workers dubbed “sandhogs” had to be lowered into the river in compressed chambers known as caissons. For the first time ever, explosives were used within the caissons, and a number of sandhogs died from decompression sickness, also known as caisson’s disease or the bends. After John Roebling was killed in an accident just as construction got underway, his son Washington took over engineering responsibilities. Washington Roebling was permanently handicapped by caisson’s disease during the construction, but was able to continue managing the project from his bed, deploying his wife Emily Roebling to convey his instructions to the work crews.
When the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883 it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, with an anchorage-to-anchorage length of 1053 meters. The span between the towers is 483 meters. In addition to its roadways, the Brooklyn Bridge features a pedestrian promenade with superb views (see below). In this shot, the Monkey poses on a dreary day near the Manhattan end of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Four of the five boroughs of New York City are on islands (only The Bronx is connected to the U.S. mainland) and so the city limits contain a lot of waterways. This meant that New York needed to build bridges if it was to come together as a coherent city, and build bridges it did. According to the New York City Department of Transportation, there are 2,027 bridges in New York City. By no means do all of these bridges cross water, but among those that do are some real standouts. Four of the most impressive bridges in New York span the East River, which flows between Manhattan on one side and Brooklyn and Queens on the other. In this shot the Monkey is about halfway across the most celebrated of New York’s bridges—the Brooklyn Bridge—looking up the East River at the Manhattan Bridge (see below).
Among the important bridges that the Monkey has yet to visit in New York is the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the suspension bridge with the second longest span in the world. It connects Brooklyn and Staten Island.
The Monkey crossed the Brooklyn Bridge’s pedestrian promenade during the summer of 2003. In this photo you get a clear look at the steel cables that the roadway is suspended from, and a nice view of the slightly gothic design of the support towers. As far as the Monkey could verify, the bridge remains structurally sound.
A number of New York’s neighborhoods get a fair amount of scenery out of their proximity to one bridge or another, but this rather posh area in Brooklyn actually got its name from the bridge that soars over it. The quarter is called Dumbo, short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.
In the pleasant environs of Astoria Park in Queens, the Monkey dropped by to see one of New York’s prettiest, if lesser known, bridges. The Hellgate Bridge, named for the tide-influenced channel of rushing water between the East River and the Long Island Sound, is a rail bridge with a graceful steel arch. Designed by Gustav Lindenthal, who also engineered the Queensboro Bridge and oversaw the construction of the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges downriver, the Hellgate Bridge was built between 1904 and 1917. Its span is 310 meters long, and its characteristic color is called Hell Gate Red.
The Triborough Bridge project was an ambitious one connecting Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx with highways on Long Island and Westchester County, north of the city. It involved multiple bridges, elevated viaducts, access roads, parks, and office facilities for its administration, and was planned as early as 1916. But under the New York State and City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, the project took flight during the 1930s, receiving partial funding from the U.S. government’s Depression-era Public Works Administration. Like other Moses projects, the Triborough Bridge utterly changed the face of the city, razing strips of neighborhoods in its way and swelling traffic (while alleviating some of the congestion on Manhattan’s streets). When it opened in 1936, there was a 25 cent toll to cross the bridge; today, that toll is $4.00. Here, the Monkey poses in Astoria Park, Queens, with the silhouette of the Triborough Bridge’s suspension span and the Manhattan skyline in the distance. This span, 420 meters long, crosses the same channel of water as the Hell Gate Bridge (above).
The Monkey poses near the Brooklyn end of the Manhattan Bridge. Engineered by Leon Moisseiff, this third East River suspension bridge opened to traffic in 1909. It has a total length of 2090 meters and the distance between its towers is 448 meters. In addition to seven lanes of roadway, the bridge has four tracks used by several of the city’s subway lines. Renovated over recent years, the Manhattan Bridge was looking particularly sharp with its fresh paint job when the Monkey stopped by in summer 2003.
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