Little Bits of History

March 30

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 30, 2017

1909: The Queensboro Bridge opens. The bridge connects Manhattan with Queens in New York City and crosses the East River. Serious proposals for a bridge in that location were brought forth as early as 1838 but funding was an issue. In 1867 a private enterprise began to collect money but went bankrupt in the 1890s. In 1898, Greater New York City was created by combining Manhattan with Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. A Department of Bridges was created and Gustav Lindenthal was the head. He worked with Leffert Buck and Henry Hornbostel to design a bridge and successfully brought forth plans in 1903.

Construction soon began but it took several years to complete the bridge. This was due to delays brought on by a collapse of one of the spans during a storm and labor unrest. Labor issues became so strained, at one point workers attempted to dynamite one span. When the bridge opened for traffic on this day, the cost was about $18 million (About $480 million today) and fifty people had died. Originally called Queensboro Bridge, today the official name is the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge but it is also called the 59th Street Bridge because of its location on the Manhattan side, between 59th and 60th streets.

There are three major spans. From Manhattan to Roosevelt Island is 1,182 feet. The span across the island is 630 feet. The span from the island to Queens is 984 feet. The side spans are 469 and 459 feet with a total length between anchorages at 3,724 feet and total length including approaches measuring 7,449 feet. The spans over water are cantilever designs and until the opening of Quebec Bridge in 1917, the longer Manhattan to Roosevelt Island span was the longest cantilever span in the North America. The bridge is double-decker with the upper level having four lanes of automobile traffic. From there you can see the cantilever trusses. The lower level has five lanes. The North Outer Roadway was converted in 2000 to a strictly pedestrian and bicycle path.

The bridge needed extensive renovation, a process which began in 1987 and was finally completed in 2012 at a cost of $300 million. In 2009, when the bridge was 100 years old, a centennial celebration was carried out with several different events. It was listed by the American Society of Civil Engineers as an National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark during that year. The name changed the next year to honor New York City mayor, Ed Koch. This was not a universally accepted idea. Regardless of the name, the bridge is popular with those navigating through the area and over 175,000 vehicles cross it each day.

Slow down, you move too fast / You got to make the morning last / Just kicking down the cobblestones / Looking for fun and feeling groovy – lyrics from Simon and Garfunkle, The 59th Street Bridge Song

The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world. – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding. – John Updike

There is no question that there is an unseen world. The problem is, how far is it from midtown and how late is it open? – Woody Allen

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