The Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the USA. Completed in 1883, it connects the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River. With a main span of 1,595.5 feet, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world from its opening until 1903, and the first steel-wire suspension bridge. Originally referred to as the New York and Brooklyn Bridge and as the East River Bridge, it was dubbed the Brooklyn Bridge in a 25th of January 1867 letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and formally so named by the city government in 1915. Since its opening, it has become an iconic part of the New York skyline. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1972.
Construction: The Brooklyn Bridge was initially designed by German immigrant John Augustus Roebling, who had previously designed and constructed shorter suspension bridges, such as Roebling's Delaware Aqueduct in Pennsylvania, Waco Suspension Bridge in Waco, Texas, and the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge in Cincinnati, Ohio. While conducting surveys for the bridge project, Roebling sustained a crush injury to his foot when a ferry pinned it against a piling. After amputation of his crushed toes he developed a tetanus infection which left him incapacitated and soon resulted in his death, not long after he had placed his 32-year-old son Washington Roebling in charge of the project. Washington Roebling also suffered a paralysing injury as a result of decompression sickness shortly after the beginning of construction on the 3rd of January 1870. This condition, first called "caisson disease" by the project physician Andrew Smith, afflicted many of the workers working within the caissons. After Roebling's debilitating condition left him unable to physically supervise the construction firsthand, his wife Emily Warren Roebling stepped in and provided the critical written link between her husband and the engineers on site. Under her husband's guidance, Emily had studied higher mathematics, the calculations of catenary curves, the strengths of materials, bridge specifications and the intricacies of cable construction. She spent the next eleven years assisting Washington Roebling helping to supervise the bridge's construction. When iron probes underneath the caisson found the bedrock to be even deeper than expected, Roebling halted construction due to the increased risk of decompression sickness. He later deemed the aggregate overlying the bedrock thirty feet below it to be firm enough to support the tower base and construction continued.
The Brooklyn Bridge was completed thirteen years later and was opened for use on the 24th of May 1883. The opening ceremony was attended by several thousand people and many ships were present in the East Bay for the occasion. President Chester A. Arthur and New York Mayor Franklin Edson crossed the bridge to celebratory cannon fire and were greeted by Brooklyn Mayor Seth Low when they reached the Brooklyn-side tower. Arthur shook hands with Washington Roebling at the latter's home, after the ceremony. Roebling was unable to attend the ceremony (and in fact rarely visited the site again), but held a banquet at his house on the day of the bridge opening. Further festivity included the performance of a band, gunfire from ships and a fireworks display.
On that first day, a total of 1,800 vehicles and 150,300 people crossed what was then the only land passage between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Emily Warren Roebling was the first to cross the bridge. The bridge's main span over the East River is 1,595 feet 6 inches. The bridge cost $15.5 million to build and approximately 27 people died during its construction.
One week after the opening, on the 30th of May 1883, a rumour that the Bridge was going to collapse caused a stampede, which crushed and killed at least twelve people. On the 17th of May 1884, P. T. Barnum helped to squelch doubts about the bridge's stability - while publicising his famous circus - when one of his most famous attractions, Jumbo, led a parade of 21 elephants over the Brooklyn Bridge.
At the time it opened, and for several years, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world - 50% longer than any previously built - and it has become a treasured landmark. Since the 1980's, it has been floodlit at night to highlight its architectural features. The towers are built of limestone, granite, and Rosendale cement. Their architectural style is neo-Gothic, with characteristic pointed arches above the passageways through the stone towers. The paint scheme of the bridge is "Brooklyn Bridge Tan" and "Silver", although it has been argued that the original paint was "Rawlins Red".
At the time the bridge was built, the aerodynamics of bridge building had not been worked out. Bridges were not tested in wind tunnels until the 1950’s - well after the collapse of the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge (Galloping Gertie) in 1940. It is therefore fortunate that the open truss structure supporting the deck is by its nature less subject to aerodynamic problems. Roebling designed a bridge and truss system that was six times as strong as he thought it needed to be. Because of this, the Brooklyn Bridge is still standing when many of the bridges built around the same time have vanished into history and been replaced. This is also in spite of the substitution of inferior quality wire in the cabling supplied by the contractor J. Lloyd Haigh - by the time it was discovered, it was too late to replace the cabling that had already been constructed. Roebling determined that the poorer wire would leave the bridge four rather than six times as strong as necessary, so it was eventually allowed to stand, with the addition of 250 cables. Diagonal cables were installed from the towers to the deck, intended to stiffen the bridge. They turned out to be unnecessary, but were kept for their distinctive beauty.
After the collapse in 2007 of the I-35W highway bridge in the city of Minneapolis, increased public attention has been brought to bear on the condition of bridges across the US, and it has been reported that the Brooklyn Bridge approach ramps received a rating of "poor" at its last inspection. According to a NYC Department of Transportation spokesman, "The poor rating it received does not mean it is unsafe. Poor means there are some components that have to be rehabilitated." A $725 million project to replace the approaches and repaint the bridge was scheduled to begin in 2009.
The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge is detailed in the 1978 book The Great Bridge by David McCullough and Brooklyn Bridge (1981), the first PBS documentary film ever made by Ken Burns. Burns drew heavily on McCullough's book for the film and used him as narrator. It is also described in Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, a BBC docudrama series with accompanying book.
At various times, the bridge has carried horse-drawn and trolley traffic; at present, it has six lanes for motor vehicles, with a separate walkway along the centerline for pedestrians and bicycles. Due to the roadway's height (11 feet posted) and weight (6,000 lb) posted) restrictions, commercial vehicles and buses are prohibited from using this bridge. The two inside traffic lanes once carried elevated trains of the BMT from Brooklyn points to a terminal at Park Row via Sands Street. Streetcars ran on what are now the two center lanes (shared with other traffic) until the elevated lines stopped using the bridge in 1944, when they moved to the protected center tracks. In 1950 the streetcars also stopped running, and the bridge was rebuilt to carry six lanes of automobile traffic.
The Brooklyn Bridge is accessible from the Brooklyn entrances of Tillary/Adams Streets, Sands/Pearl Streets, and Exit 28B of the eastbound Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. In Manhattan, motor cars can enter from either direction of the FDR Drive, Park Row, Chambers/Centre Streets, and Pearl/Frankfort Streets. Pedestrian access to the bridge from the Brooklyn side is from either Tillary/Adams Streets (in between the auto entrance/exit), or a staircase on Prospect St between Cadman Plaza East and West. In Manhattan, the pedestrian walkway is accessible from the end of Centre Street, or through the unpaid south staircase of Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall IRT subway station.
The Brooklyn Bridge has a wide pedestrian walkway open to walkers and cyclists, in the center of the bridge and higher than the automobile lanes. While the bridge has always permitted the passage of pedestrians across its span, its role in allowing thousands to cross takes on a special importance in times of difficulty when usual means of crossing the East River have become unavailable.
During transit strikes by the Transport Workers Union in 1980 and 2005, the bridge was used by people commuting to work, with Mayors Koch and Bloomberg crossing the bridge as a gesture to the affected public.
Following the 1965, 1977 and 2003 blackouts and most famously after the 9/11 on the World Trade Centre, the bridge was used by people in Manhattan to leave the city after subway service was suspended. The massive numbers of people on the bridge could not have been anticipated by the original designer, yet John Roebling designed it with three separate systems managing even unanticipated structural stresses. The bridge has a suspension system, a diagonal stay system, and a stiffening truss. "Roebling himself famously said if anything happens to one of (his) systems, 'The bridge may sag, but it will not fall.'" The movement of large numbers of people on a bridge creates pedestrian oscillations or "sway" as the crowd lifts one foot after another, some falling inevitably in synchronized cadences. The natural sway motion of people walking causes small sideways oscillations in a bridge, which in turn cause people on the bridge to sway in step, increasing the amplitude of the bridge oscillations and continually reinforcing the effect. High-density traffic of this nature causes a bridge to appear to move erratically or "to wobble" as happened at opening of the London Millennium Footbridge in 2000.
First jumper: The first person to jump from the bridge was Robert E. Odlum on May 19, 1885. He struck the water at an angle and died shortly thereafter from internal injuries. Steve Brodie was the most famous jumper, or self-proclaimed jumper (in 1886).
Bungee jump: On June 1993, following 13 reconnoiters inside the metal structure, and with the help of a mountain guide, Thierry Devaux performed (illegally) eight acrobatic bungee jumps above the East River close to the Brooklyn pier, in the early morning. He used an electric winch between each acrobatic figure.
Brooklyn Bridge shooting: On the 1st of March 1994, Lebanese-born Rashid Baz opened fire on a van carrying members of the Chabad-Lubavitch Orthodox Jewish Movement, striking 16-year-old student Ari Halberstam and three others traveling on the bridge. Halberstam died five days later from his wounds. Baz was apparently acting out of revenge for the Hebron massacre of 29 Muslims by Baruch Goldstein that had taken place days earlier on the 25th of February 1994. Baz was convicted of murder and sentenced to a 141-year prison term. After initially classifying the murder as one committed out of road rage, the Justice Department reclassified the case in 2000 as a terrorist attack. The entrance ramp to the bridge on the Manhattan side was named the Ari Halberstam Memorial Ramp in memory of the victim.
2003 plot: In 2003, truck driver Iyman Faris was sentenced to about 20 years in prison for providing material support to Al-Qaeda, after an earlier plot to destroy the bridge by cutting through its support wires with blowtorches was thwarted through information the National Security Agency uncovered through wiretapped phone conversations and interrogation of Al-Qaeda militants.
2006 bunker discovery: In 2006, a Cold War era bunker was found by city workers near the East River shoreline of Manhattan's Lower East Side. The bunker, hidden within the masonry anchorage, still contained the emergency supplies that were being stored for a potential nuclear attack by the Soviet Union.
100th anniversary celebrations: The centenary celebrations on the 24th of May 1983, saw a cavalcade of cars crossing the bridge, led by President Ronald Reagan. A flotilla of ships visited the harbor, parades were held, and in the evening the sky over the bridge was illuminated by Grucci Fireworks. The Brooklyn Museum exhibited a selection of the original drawings made for the bridge's construction, some by Washington Roebling himself.
125th anniversary celebrations: Beginning on the 22nd of May 2008, festivities were held over a five-day period to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge. The events kicked off with a live performance of the Brooklyn Philharmonic in Empire - Fulton Ferry State Park, followed by special lighting of the bridge's towers and a fireworks display. Other events held during the 125th anniversary celebrations, which coincided with the Memorial Day weekend, included a film series, historical walking tours, information tents, a series of lectures and readings, a bicycle tour of Brooklyn, a miniature golf course featuring Brooklyn icons, and other musical and dance performances.
Just before the anniversary celebrations, the Telectroscope, which created a video link between New York and London, was installed on the Brooklyn side of the bridge. The installation lasted for a few weeks and permitted viewers in New York to see people looking into a matching telectroscope in front of London's Tower Bridge. A newly renovated pedestrian connection to DUMBO was also unveiled before the anniversary celebrations.
Cultural significance: It has been shown in films such as Once Upon A Time In America, Captive Women, The Fifth Element, Deep Impact, Godzilla, Aftershock: Earthquake in New York, I Am Legend, Life After People, Cloverfield, Zombi 2, Oliver & Company, Enchanted and Kate & Leopold.
We went over the river on the subway and saw the bridge next to us, we went under it on our three hour Circle Line cruise around Long Island. By bus we went up to it on our night tour and went over it on our Brooklyn tour.
ALL IN ALL SO GOOD TO ACTUALLY SEE IT, GO OVER IT AND MARVEL AT IT
THE PIERS AND RIVER FLOW WERE VERY IMPRESSIVE