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Thread: Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge

  1. #1

    Default Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge

    Recent addition to Wired New York: Queensborough Bridge

  2. #2

    Default Queensborough (59th Street) Bridge

    I remember using the pedestrian walkway in 1996, but I couldn't do it last year.
    Are pedestrians still allowed on the bridge ?
    I really want to go back there, the view on the TWT must be fantastic...

    (Edited by Fabb at 7:52 am on Feb. 1, 2002)

  3. #3

    Default Queensborough (59th Street) Bridge

    In 1996 the pedestrian walkway was on the South side of the Queensborough Bridge. After the recent renovations they have additional car lane on that side, and the pedestrian walkway is on the North side. So you don't really have any good view of the Trump World Tower or anything on the South side of the bridge.

  4. #4

    Default Queensborough (59th Street) Bridge

    Is the thing in the second picture that seems to be "hanging" under the bridge the Roosevelt Island Tramway?

  5. #5

    Default Queensborough (59th Street) Bridge

    Yes, it is. The Roosevelt Island station of the tram is directly ahead, under the bridge. See this thread for a picture.

  6. #6

    Default Queensborough (59th Street) Bridge

    I first saw the tram in the movie "The Professional".
    Why did they build the tram instead of a bridge? I know there's a bridge connecting to the other side, but *not from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island.

  7. #7


    November 24, 2002

    Bridge Spanning the East River, With a Sense of Drama


    THE Queensboro Bridge, begun in 1901, was one of New York City's most dramatic construction projects. Its vast steel frame is gradually cantilevered out from huge masonry piers across the East River, connecting Manhattan and Queens over Roosevelt then known as Blackwell's Island.

    A project to clean and repair the bridge's six colossal stone piers, which were part of its lost network of pedestrian accommodations, is to begin next year.

    The original plan used a bare-bones design, but after work started, a new commissioner of bridges, the engineer Gustav Lindenthal, hired the architect Henry Hornbostel in 1902 to create structural elements that would be more appropriate for a great public work. Usually, the magazine Architecture observed in 1903, "the engineer makes the design, hands it to the architect to add a lantern or two, makes it fancy, and the artistic conscience of the interested community is at rest."

    But in this case Hornbostel reworked the original, giving it elliptical entrance portals, Art Nouveau-influenced crowning finials and related ornamentation, as well as dome-topped masonry towers. Unlike the city's earlier suspension spans, the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges, the new Blackwell's Island Bridge, as it was first called, was erected by cantilevering steel sections out from support towers on land.

    When Rudolph Knorr, a Cornish-born workman, put in the last rivet at 3:33 p.m. on March 19, 1908, a bottle of champagne was broken over the final beam.

    That September, Queens businessmen petitioned to have the name changed officially to the Queensboro Bridge. The New York Times wrote that influential property owners in Manhattan and Queens objected to the name Blackwell's Island Bridge because certain city buildings on Blackwell's Island made that name "unpleasantly suggestive of a penal institution and a poorhouse."

    One businessman, E. J. Rickert, said: "It is distinctly a Queens Borough bridge, and is should have been so designated in the first place." The article did not discuss why the shorter form, Queensboro, was chosen.

    But various Irish-American societies opposed the choice of Queensboro, which they thought sounded too British. Bernard McLaughlin, an original promoter of the bridge, said, "There is a deplorable fashion in this country of giving English names to American institutions." He added that the borough of Queens, not the bridge, needed a name change. He suggested "Montauk or some other good American name."

    According to Jeffrey Kroessler, president of the Queensborough Preservation League and author of "New York Year by Year: a Chronology of the Great Metropolis" (N.Y.U. Press, 2002), there is no evidence that Queens, named in 1683 when the province of New York was divided into 10 counties, was named for a particular queen. Some have argued, however, that the borough was named in honor of Catherine of Braganza, who was born in Portugal and married King Charles II of England in 1662.

    The Queensboro name which had been in occasional use since 1899, before the bridge went up won out, and on March 30, 1909, the new $12 million span opened. There were 235 applications from people who sought to be the first to jump from the bridge 168 from professional bridge jumpers, 34 from inventors with devices to test, 9 would-be suicides and 24 unemployed men who thought the gesture would improve their chances of work.

    They were all disappointed, because the hundreds watching from the roofs and windows of the tenements surrounding the bridge in Manhattan saw it open to a stampede of runners from athletic clubs, of whom the first was Alfred Lehnhardt, 18, of Manhattan and the Olivet Athletic Club. Among the first vehicles across was a farm wagon returning to Queens; a few hours earlier, it had carried produce into Manhattan on the 34th Street ferry. Far below, convicts in the penitentiary on Blackwell's Island pressed their faces to the barred windows of their cells. They had watched the 3,724 1/2-foot-long bridge grow, day by day.

    The bridge design provided for two decks, the upper with two outside footwalks and an interior double rail line to connect with the Second Avenue elevated, the lower with a vehicle roadway and four trolley tracks, including a special shuttle line that, in Manhattan, made a loop under the bridge's plaza on Second Avenue.

    Hornbostel was proud of the spiky metalwork on top of the "gaily-capped" steel towers, as he described them in the magazine Architecture in 1909. Their fantastic, slightly sinister wavy shapes in riveted steel evoke Jules Verne's submarine the Nautilus in his book "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." Traffic on each side of the bridge was disgorged without benefit of any formal plaza, although one of the 18-foot-high bronze lanterns designed by Hornbostel at the Manhattan end has somehow survived the continuous widenings made for increased auto traffic.

    In July 1910 a letter in The Times signed "A Constant Reader" complained about a lack of benches for the "hundreds of children with their parents trying for air" on the stifling summer nights, an indication that the bridge was not solely used for vehicles.

    Indeed the two dome-topped anchorages housed elevators and stairs for pedestrians who needed access closer to the shorelines in Queens and Manhattan. A 1916 tally listed 705,000 pedestrians per year, as against 20 million rail passengers and 3.5 million vehicles. In 2000 the yearly tally was 289,000 pedestrians and cyclists, and 66 million vehicles.

    IN 1912 one prisoner tried to add to the pedestrian statistics. David D. Lewis, a clergyman, was at the Blackwell's Island penitentiary serving a one-year term for fraud. Slipping away from a work detail, he used a maintenance cable to clamber up to the bridge deck while under fire from prison guards below.

    But he was captured by two policemen on bicycles. The Times reported that friends of prisoners often dropped food and clothes from the bridge.

    Because Manhattan-bound traffic arrived at Second Avenue without the benefit of a grand colonnade like that at the Williamsburg Bridge, a change was proposed in 1913: the demolition of the entire block between 59th and 60th Streets from Second to Third Avenue, and its replacement by a formal garden with temple-like structures camouflaging the elevated lines. But the plan was never realized.

    In 1931, Edward A. MacDougall, a prominent Queens real estate figure, called for another bridge crossing at 86th Street, saying that the saturation level for the Queensboro would be reached in 1937. But some room was made for increased vehicle traffic by adding a series of new approaches, north and south, and ending trolley and elevated service across the bridge.

    In 1960, eight elegant, 70-foot-high flagpoles, part of Hornbostel's design, were removed from the bridge's towers after years of inadequate maintenance. When flags flew from them, it must have been an inspiring sight, but The Times reported that the practice was discontinued after World War II it took several hours a day to raise and lower them.

    Now the Department of Transportation is planning a $3 million rehabilitation of the six massive piers in Manhattan and Queens. The project, designed by Walter B. Melvin Architects and Parsons Transportation Group, is to begin next year. In addition to cleaning and repairing the exterior stonework, the interior stairways will be rehabilitated; the elevators were removed long ago.

    A recent visitor walking up the stairs of the white-glazed-brick shaftway at 60th Street in Manhattan alarmed the pigeons who nest there, as well as a couple of friendly homeless men who live peacefully on a mezzanine near the top level, with the traffic roaring past.

    The open iron stairway makes for a giddy ascent, about seven floors high and protected only by light wire caging on one side. But the modern walker in the city will not soon experience it the work is being undertaken for the convenience of bridge workers, and the rehabilitated stairways will not be open to the public.

    The narrow bicycle/pedestrian lane on the north side of the bridge's lower deck is not nearly so elegant as the original pair of upper deck pedestrian walks. But even with the deafening traffic, it offers sweeping views to the north and south, with the swirling whorls of the East River far below, and the huge iron matrix of the bridge above.

    Copyright The New York Times Company

  8. #8


    Finally getting a paint job.
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  9. #9
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    New York City


    NY Newsday


    Restoration on the rive


    August 22, 2005

    Like many an aging beauty, the Queensboro Bridge is getting a facelift.

    Distinctive white cocoons have sprouted over the century-old span's steel arches. And the hum of power tools now mingles with the roar of passing traffic.

    It's all part of a major rehabilitation of the city-owned bridge over the East River, expected to cost about $200 million and end in late 2008.

    Distinctive white tents allow workers to blast away lead-based paint without releasing the toxic chemical into the air. After the paint is removed from the bridge's 5.5 million square feet of steel, it will be replaced with three layers of a lead-free coat. Elsewhere, crews are tackling a series of minor projects on the bridge, which measures about 1 1/2 mile: building a fence along the pedestrian walkway, replacing aviation lights and power-washing the brick piers.

    Along Second Avenue, they are rehabilitating a landmark kiosk where tickets were sold from 1909 to 1957 for the trolley that at one time clacked over the span. The tidy shack features Guastavino tiling, but has been steadily banged up by wayward motorists. To prevent future damage, a fence of sturdy bollards will be installed.

    An estimated 190,000 vehicles cross the Queensboro, also called the 59th Street Bridge, each day, making it the busiest East River crossing. Because of its importance, there will be no bridge closures - just occasional shutdowns of certain lanes, said Henry D. Perahia, chief bridge officer for the city Department of Transportation. "We can't close the bridge," he said.

    Getting the lead out

    Workers are firing an abrasive grit at the bridge to blast off rust and lead paint. They are doing this in special tents designed to keep the toxic substance from escaping - if the tent is punctured, air is drawn into the tent until it can be plugged with a special foam. Once cleared the bridge will be painted in two colors: Queensboro brown and mesa tan. Cost of clearing and repainting: $168 million.

    New lighting

    Lighting along the upper and lower roadways will be replaced with high-pressure sodium lights, and the red aviation lights atop the towers will be replaced.

    Ticket to ride

    From 1909 to 1957 a trolley crossed the bridge, and tickets were sold at this kiosk on the Manhattan side. $750,000 will be spent to restore the landmark and protect it from traffic with a fence.

    Brick piers

    The masonry supporting the bridge will be treated to the high-powered steam wash. (The lower part of this pier has been washed: the upper remains stained.)

    For the crossing

    A fence is being installed along the pedestrian walkway (to keep people from throwing things off), and the surface on the north upper roadway will be replaced.

  10. #10


    It's a shame the trolleys that ran over the bridge are now buses. The underground trolley terminal is still there.

  11. #11
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    New York City


    Are they going to replace the bulbs in the ornate lamp at the south corner of the Manhattan onramp?

    Not only that, are they going to ever install a replica of the lamp that used to be on the opposite side of the onramp?

  12. #12

    Default help

    how do u get to the 59th street bridge from 30 ave?

  13. #13

    Default Who's Photo is that last picture?

    Quote Originally Posted by Edward View Post
    In 1996 the pedestrian walkway was on the South side of the Queensborough Bridge. After the recent renovations they have additional car lane on that side, and the pedestrian walkway is on the North side. So you don't really have any good view of the Trump World Tower or anything on the South side of the bridge.

    I would love to paint that Last Picture of the three posted on the opening thread, and I would love permission to use the last photo as a refference. Is there anyway you could let me know or contact me about that? I don't want to step on any toes!


    Peter (in Toronto Canada)

  14. #14

    Default Family Bridge

    My great grandfather, my grandfather and my father all worked on the Queenboro Bridge. My great grandfather was an ironworker on the original construction.

    I have the bell from the last trolley that ran across the bridge.

    On March 30, 2009, the bridge will be 100 years old.

    Many stories to tell and much to share--old photos, too.

  15. #15
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Yonkers/ Hell's Kitchen


    I've rode the QBridge a couple of times going to St. Johns University in Jamaica for the lack of toll (im cheap like that)!
    The view coming BACK from Queens is absolutely breathtaking. The skyscapers look like perfectly placed neat blocks with thousands of lights to emanate them. ABSOLUTE gorgeous view.

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