Seen from Manhattan in 2005
|Carries||6 lanes of roadway (cars only)|
Elevated trains (until 1944)
Streetcars (until 1950)
Pedestrians and bicycles
|Locale||New York City (Civic Center, Manhattan – Dumbo/Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn)|
|Maintained by||New York City Department of Transportation|
|Total length||6,016 ft (1,833.7 m)|
|Width||85 ft (25.9 m)|
|Height||272 ft (82.9 m) (towers)|
|Longest span||1,595.5 ft (486.3 m)|
|Clearance below||133 ft (40.5 m) above mean high water|
|Designer||John Augustus Roebling|
|Opened||May 24, 1883|
|Daily traffic||105,679 (2016)|
|Toll||Free both ways|
|NRHP reference #||66000523|
|Added to NRHP||October 15, 1966|
|Designated NHL||January 29, 1964|
|Designated NYCL||August 24, 1967|
Location within New York City
The Brooklyn Bridge is a hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge in New York City. It connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, spanning the East River. The Brooklyn Bridge has a main span of 1,595.5 feet (486.3 m) and a height of 133 ft (40.5 m) above Mean High Water. It is one of the oldest roadway bridges in the United States and was the world's first steel-wire suspension bridge, as well as the first fixed crossing across the East River.
The Brooklyn Bridge started construction in 1869 and was completed fourteen years later in 1883. It was originally called the New York and Brooklyn Bridge and the East River Bridge, but it was later dubbed the Brooklyn Bridge. However, it was not named as such until the city government passed a law to that extent in 1915. Over the years, the Brooklyn Bridge has undergone several reconfigurations; it formerly carried horse-drawn vehicles and elevated railway lines, but now carries vehicular, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic. Commercial vehicles are banned from the bridge.
Since opening, the Brooklyn Bridge has become an icon of New York City, ranking among the city's most popular tourist attractions. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1972. The Brooklyn Bridge is also a New York City designated landmark and is on the tentative list of World Heritage Sites.
Although the Brooklyn Bridge is technically a suspension bridge, it uses a hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge design. The 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".
Because of the low terrain in both Manhattan and Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Bridge incorporates long approach viaducts on either end. Including approaches, the Brooklyn Bridge is a total of 6,016 feet (1,834 m) long, when measured between the curbs at Park Row in Manhattan and Sands Street in Brooklyn. A separate measurement of 5,989 feet (1,825 m) is sometimes obtained as well; this is the measurement obtained by measuring from the curb at Centre Street in Manhattan.
The main span, between the two suspension towers, is 1,595.5 feet (486.3 m) long and 85 feet (26 m) wide. It is alternately measured as having a maximum span height of 133 feet (41 m) or 135 feet (41 m) above Mean High Water (MHW). During construction, harbor pilot Joseph Henderson was called upon as an expert seaman to determine the height above MHW for the Brooklyn Bridge's main span.
The side spans, between each suspension tower and each side's suspension anchorages, are each 930 feet (280 m) long. At the time of construction, engineers had not yet discovered the aerodynamics of bridge construction. Bridges were not tested in wind tunnels at the time. It was coincidental that the open truss structure supporting the deck is by its nature less subject to aerodynamic problems, since the Brooklyn Bridge's truss system was designed by John A. Roebling to be six to eight times as strong as he thought it needed to be. However, due to the use of inferior-quality cable in the initial construction, the bridge was only four times as strong as necessary.
Each of the side spans is reached by an approach ramp. The 971-foot (296 m) approach ramp from the Brooklyn side is shorter than the 1,567-foot (478 m) approach ramp from the Manhattan side. The approaches are supported by Renaissance-style arches made of masonry; the arch openings themselves were filled with brick walls, with small windows within. The approach ramp contains nine arch or iron-girder bridges across side streets in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
The Brooklyn Bridge is supported by four main cables, which descend from the tops of the suspension towers and help support the deck. Two are located to the outside of the bridge's roadways, while two are located in the median of the roadways. Each main cable measures 15.75 inches (40.0 cm) in diameter and contains 5,282 parallel, galvanized-steel wires wrapped closely together in a cylindrical shape. These wires are bundled in 19 individual strands, with 278 wires to a strand. In addition, 1,520 galvanized steel wire suspender cables hang downward from the main cables, and another 400 stays extend diagonally from the towers. These wires directly hold up the truss structure around the bridge deck.
Each side of the bridge contains an anchorage for the main cables. The anchorages are trapezoidal limestone structures, measuring 129 by 119 feet (39 by 36 m) at the base and 117 by 104 feet (36 by 32 m) at the top. Each anchorage weighs 60,000 short tons (54,000 long tons). The anchorages both have four anchor plates near ground level, one for each of the main cables. The anchor plates measure 16 by 17.5 inches (410 by 440 mm), with a thickness of 2.5 inches (64 mm), and weigh 46,000 pounds (21,000 kg) each. Each anchor plate is connected to the respective main cable by two sets of nine eyebars, and each eyebar is about 12.5 feet (3.8 m) long and up to 9 by 3 inches (229 by 76 mm) thick. The anchor bars were of different sizes: those closest to the anchor plates were smaller than those furthest away, since the furthest-away anchor bars bore the most stress from the cables. The anchor bars form a ninety-degree curve: at ground level, they are perpendicular to both the anchor plates and the ground, while the tops of the curved anchor bars are parallel to the roadway above it.
The anchorages also contain numerous passageways and compartments. New York City rented out the large vaults under the bridge's Manhattan anchorage in order to fund the bridge. Opened in 1876, the vaults were used to store wine, as they were always at 60 °F (16 °C). This was called the "Blue Grotto" because of a shrine to the Virgin Mary next to an opening at the entrance. When New York magazine visited one of the cellars in 1978, it discovered on the wall a "fading inscription" reading: "Who loveth not wine, women and song, he remaineth a fool his whole life long."
The two suspension towers are 278 feet (85 m) tall with a footprint of 140 by 59 feet (43 by 18 m) at the high water line. They are built of limestone, granite, and Rosendale cement. The limestone was quarried at the Clark Quarry in Essex County, New York. The granite blocks were quarried and shaped on Vinalhaven Island, Maine, under a contract with the Bodwell Granite Company, and delivered from Maine to New York by schooner. The Manhattan tower contains 46,945 cubic yards (35,892 m3) of masonry, more than the Brooklyn tower, which has 38,214 cubic yards (29,217 m3) of masonry.
Each tower contains a pair of 33.75-foot-wide (10.29 m) Gothic-style pointed arches, through which the roadways run. The arch openings are 117 feet (36 m) tall. The top of the towers are 159 feet (48 m) above the floor of each arch opening. The floor level of the arches is located 119.25 feet (36.35 m) above mean water.
The towers rest on underwater caissons, giant upside-down boxes made of southern yellow pine. The Manhattan side's caisson is slightly larger, measuring 172 by 102 feet (52 by 31 m) and located 78.5 feet (23.9 m) below high water, while the Brooklyn side's caisson measures 168 by 102 feet (51 by 31 m) and is located 44.5 feet (13.6 m) below high water. The caissons were designed to hold 23 short tons per square foot (220 t/m2), even though the towers would only exert pressure of 5 short tons per square foot (49 t/m2) when built. The Brooklyn side's caisson, which was built first, originally had a height of 9.5 feet (2.9 m) with a ceiling composed of five layers of timber, each 1 foot (0.30 m) tall. Ten more layers of timber were later added atop the ceiling, and the entire caisson was wrapped in tin and wood for further protection. The thickness of the caisson's sides was 8 feet (2.4 m) at the bottom and 8 feet (2.4 m) at the top. The caisson had six chambers: two each for dredging, supply shafts, and airlocks. The Manhattan side's caisson was slightly different because it had to be installed at a lower depth. In addition to having seven additional layers of timber along with the 15 layers in its Brooklyn counterpart, the Manhattan caisson had fifty 4-inch (10 cm)-diameter pipes for sand removal, a fireproof iron-boilerplate interior, and different airlocks and communication systems.
Early plan of one tower for the Brooklyn Bridge, 1867
|Presentation by David McCullough on The Great Bridge, September 17, 2002, C-SPAN|
Proposals for a bridge between the then-separate cities of Brooklyn and New York had been suggested as early as 1800. Engineers presented various designs such as chain or link bridges, though these were never built due to the difficulties of constructing a high-enough fixed-span bridge across the extremely busy East River. At the time, the only travel between the two cities was by various ferry lines. The current Brooklyn Bridge was conceived by German immigrant John Augustus Roebling in 1852, who spent part of the next 15 years advertising the idea. He had previously designed and constructed shorter suspension bridges, such as Roebling's Delaware Aqueduct in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, and the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge between Cincinnati, Ohio, and Covington, Kentucky.
In February 1867, the New York State Senate passed a bill that allowed the construction of a suspension bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Two months later, the New York and Brooklyn Bridge Company was incorporated with a board of directors (later converted to a board of trustees). The company was tasked with constructing what was then known as the New York and Brooklyn Bridge. The span was also alternatively referred to as just the "Brooklyn Bridge", a name originating from a January 25, 1867, letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Roebling was subsequently named the main engineer of the work, and by September 1867, had presented a master plan. According to the plan, the bridge would be longer and taller than any suspension bridge previously built. It would incorporate roadways and elevated rail tracks as well as a raised promenade, providing a means to pay for the bridge's construction via tolls and train fares, while providing a leisurely pathway as well. The proposal received much acclaim in both cities, and residents predicted that the New York and Brooklyn Bridge's opening would have as much of an impact as the Suez Canal, the first transatlantic telegraph cable, or the First Transcontinental Railroad. By early 1869, however, some people started to negatively criticize the project as being either too expensive or too cumbersome.
To allay concerns about the design of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, Roebling set up a "Bridge Party" in March 1869, where he invited engineers and members of U.S. Congress to see his other spans. After the bridge party concluded that April, Roebling and several engineers conducted final surveys. During the process, it was found that the main span would have to be raised from 130 to 135 feet (40 to 41 m) above MHW, requiring several changes to the overall design. In June 1869, while conducting surveys, 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 that left him incapacitated and soon resulted in his death the following month. His 32-year-old son, Washington Roebling, was then designated to replace his father. Also following John Roebling's death, Tammany Hall leader William M. Tweed became involved in the bridge's construction. Being a major landowner in New York City, Tweed had an interest in seeing the project completed.
Construction of the Brooklyn Bridge began in 1869 with the construction of two caissons, upon which the suspension towers would be built. The Brooklyn side's caisson was built at the Webb & Bell shipyard in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and was launched into the river on March 19, 1870. Compressed air was pumped into the caisson, and workers entered the space to dig the sediment, until the caisson sank to the bedrock. Once the caisson had reached the desired depth, it was to be filled in with brick piers and concrete. However, due to the unexpectedly high concentration of large boulders atop the riverbed, the Brooklyn caisson took several months to sink at the desired rate. Furthermore, in December 1870, the timber roof of the Brooklyn caisson caught fire, delaying construction further. The "Great Blowout", as the fire was called, delayed construction for several months, since the holes in the caisson had to be repaired. On March 6, 1871, the repairs were finished and the caisson had reached its final depth of 44.5 feet (13.6 m); it was filled with concrete five days later. Overall, about 264 individuals were estimated to have worked in the caisson every day, but because of high worker turnover, about 2,500 men in total were estimated to have worked in the caisson. Despite the high turnover rate, only a few workers were paralyzed. At its final depth, the caisson had an air pressure of 21 pounds per square inch (140 kPa).
The Manhattan side's caisson was the next structure to be built, and to ensure that it would not catch fire like its counterpart had, the Manhattan caisson was lined with fireproof plate iron. It was launched from Webb & Bell's shipyard on May 11, 1871, and maneuvered into place that September. Due to the extreme underwater air pressure inside the much deeper Manhattan caisson, many workers became sick with decompression sickness during this work, despite the incorporation of airlocks. This condition was unknown at the time and was first called "caisson disease" by the project physician, Andrew Smith. Between January 25 and May 31, 1872, Smith treated 110 cases of decompression sickness, while three workers died from the disease. When iron probes underneath the Manhattan caisson found the bedrock to be even deeper than expected, Washington Roebling halted construction due to the increased risk of decompression sickness. After the Manhattan caisson reached a depth of 78.5 feet (23.9 m) with an air pressure of 35 pounds per square inch (240 kPa), Washington deemed the sandy subsoil overlying the bedrock 30 feet (9.1 m) beneath to be sufficiently firm, and subsequently infilled the caisson with concrete in July 1872.
Washington Roebling himself suffered a paralyzing injury as a result of caisson disease shortly after ground was broken for the Brooklyn tower foundation. Washington's debilitating condition left him unable to physically supervise the construction firsthand, so he designed the caissons and other equipment from his apartment. His wife, Emily Warren Roebling, provided written communications between her husband and the engineers on site. Emily understood higher mathematics, calculations of catenary curves, strengths of materials, bridge specifications, and intricacies of cable construction, and so she spent the next 11 years helping supervise the bridge's construction.
After the caissons were completed, piers were constructed atop each caisson, upon which the masonry towers would be built. The construction of the towers themselves was a complex process that took four years. Since the masonry blocks were heavy, the builders lifted the blocks using a pulley system with a continuous 1.5-inch (3.8 cm)-diameter steel wire rope, operated by steam engines at ground level. The blocks were lifted via a timber track alongside each tower, then maneuvered into the proper position using a derrick atop the towers. The blocks sometimes vibrated the ropes due to their heaviness, but only once did a block actually fall down.
The suspension towers started construction in mid-1872, and by the time work was halted for the winter in late 1872, parts of each tower had already been constructed. By mid-1873, there was substantial progress on the towers' construction. The Brooklyn side's tower had reached a height of 164 feet (50 m) above mean high water, while the Manhattan side's tower had reached 88 feet (27 m) above MHW. The arches of the Brooklyn tower were completed by August 1874. The tower as a whole was substantially finished by December 1874 with the erection of saddle plates for the main cables at the top of the tower. However, the ornamentation on the Brooklyn tower could not be completed until the Manhattan tower was finished. The last stone on the Brooklyn tower was raised in June 1875 and the Manhattan tower was completed in July 1876. The saddle plates atop both towers were also raised in July 1876. The work was dangerous: by 1876, three workers had died by falling from the towers, while nine other workers had been killed in other accidents.
While the towers were being constructed, in 1875, the project had depleted its original $5 million budget. Two bridge commissioners, one each from Brooklyn and Manhattan, petitioned New York state lawmakers to allot another $8 million for construction. Ultimately, the legislators passed a law authorizing the allotment, under the condition that the cities would buy the stock of Brooklyn Bridge's private stockholders.
Work proceeded concurrently on the anchorages on each side. The Brooklyn anchorage broke ground in January 1873 and was subsequently substantially completed in August 1875. The Manhattan anchorage was built in less time, having started in May 1875, it was mostly completed in July 1876. The anchorages could not be fully completed until the main cables were spun, at which point another six feet would be added to the height of each 80-foot anchorage.
The first temporary rope was stretched between the towers on August 15, 1876, using chrome steel provided by the Chrome Steel Company of Brooklyn. The wire was then stretched back across the river, and the two ends were spliced to form a "traveler", a lengthy loop of wire connecting the towers, which was driven by a 30 horsepower (22 kW) steam hoisting engine at ground level. The next step was to send an engineer across the traveler rope in a "boatswain's chair" slung from the wire. The bridge's master mechanic E.F. Farrington was selected for this task, and an estimated crowd of 10,000 people on both shores watched him cross. A second traveler rope was then stretched across the bridge, a task that was completed by August 30. The two traveler ropes would then be used to create a temporary footbridge for workers while cable spinning was ongoing. The temporary footbridge, located some 60 feet (18 m) above the elevation of the future deck, was completed in February 1877.
By December 1876, a steel contract for the permanent cables still had not been awarded. There was disagreement over whether the bridge's cables should use the as-yet-untested Bessemer steel or the well-proven crucible steel. Until a permanent contract was awarded, the builders ordered 30 short tons (27 long tons) of wire in the interim, 10 tons each from three companies, including Washington Roebling's own steel mill in Brooklyn. Ultimately it was decided to use 8 mm Birmingham gauge crucible steel, and a request for bids was distributed, to which eight companies responded. In January 1877, a contract for crucible steel was awarded to J. Lloyd Haigh, whom Roebling distrusted but who was associated with bridge trustee Abram Hewitt. 
The spinning of the wires required the manufacture of large coils of wire, which were galvanized but not oiled when they left the factory. The coils were delivered to a yard near the Brooklyn anchorage where they were dipped in linseed oil, hoisted to the top of the anchorage, dried out and spliced into a single wire, and finally coated with red zinc for further galvanizing. There were thirty-two drums at the anchorage yard, eight for each of the four main cables, of which each drum had a capacity of 60,000 feet (18,000 m) of wire. The first experimental wire for the main cables was stretched between the towers on May 29, 1877, and spinning began two weeks later. All four main cables were being strung by that July. During that time, the temporary footbridge was unofficially opened to the general public, who could receive visitor's passes; by August 1877 several thousand visitors from around the world had used the footbridge. The visitor passes ceased that September after a visitor had an epileptic seizure and nearly fell off.
As the wires were being spun, work also commenced on the demolition of buildings on either side of the river for the Brooklyn Bridge's approaches; this work was mostly complete by September 1877. The following month, initial contracts were awarded for the suspender wires, which would hang downward from the main cables and support the deck. By May 1878, the main cables were more than two-thirds complete. However, the following month, one of the wires slipped, killing two people and injuring three others. A subsequent investigation discovered that J. Lloyd Haigh had substituted inferior quality wire in the cables. Of eighty rings of wire that were tested, only five met standards, and it was estimated that Haigh had earned $300,000 from the deception. At this point, it was too late to replace the cables that had already been constructed. Roebling determined that the poorer wire would leave the bridge only four times as strong as necessary, rather than six to eight times as strong, so the inferior-quality wire was allowed to remain and 150 extra cables were added. The contract for the remaining wire was quietly awarded to the John A. Roebling's Sons company, and by October 5, 1878, the last of the main cables' wires went over the river.
After the suspender wires had been placed, workers began erecting steel crossbeams to support the roadway, as part of the bridge's overall superstructure. As with the cables, the trustees initially disagreed on whether the steel superstructure should be made of Bessemer or crucible steel. Ultimately in July 1879, the trustees decided to award a contract for 5,000 short tons (4,500 long tons) of steel to the Edgemoor (or Edge Moor) Iron Works, based in Philadelphia, to be delivered by 1880. However, by February 1880 the steel deliveries had not started. That October, the bridge trustees questioned Edgemoor's president about the delay in steel deliveries. Despite Edgemoor's assurances that the contract would be fulfilled, the deliveries still had not been complete by November 1881. Brooklyn mayor Seth Low, who became part of the board of trustees in 1882, became the chairman of a committee tasked to investigate Edgemoor's failure to fulfill the contract. When questioned, Edgemoor's president stated that the delays were the fault of another contractor, the Cambria Iron Company, who was manufacturing the eyebars for the bridge trusses; at that point, the contract was supposed to be complete by October 1882.
Further complicating the situation, Washington Roebling had failed to appear at the trustees' meeting in June 1882, since he had fled to Newport, Rhode Island. After the news media discovered this, many of the newspapers called for Roebling to be fired as chief engineer, with the exception of the Daily State Gazette of Trenton, New Jersey, and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Some of the more longstanding trustees including Henry C. Murphy, James S. T. Stranahan, and William C. Kingsley were willing to vouch for Roebling, since construction progress on the Brooklyn Bridge was still ongoing. However, Roebling's behavior was considered suspect among the younger trustees who had joined the board more recently.
Construction on the bridge itself was noted in formal reports that Murphy presented each month to the mayors of New York and Brooklyn. For example, Murphy's report in August 1882 noted that the month's progress included 114 intermediate chords erected within a week, as well as 72 diagonal stays, 60 posts, and numerous floor beams, bridging trusses, and stay bars. By early 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was considered mostly completed and was projected to open that June. Contracts for bridge lighting were awarded by February 1883, and a toll scheme was approved that March.
The New York and Brooklyn Bridge was opened for use on May 24, 1883. Thousands of people attended the opening ceremony, 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 Seth Low, the Brooklyn mayor, 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 celebratory 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. Since the New York and Brooklyn Bridge was the only one across the East River at that time, it was also called East River Bridge. Until the construction of the nearby Williamsburg Bridge in 1903, the Brooklyn Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world, 50% longer than any previously built.
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 cost US$15.5 million in 1883 dollars (about US$403,339,000 in today's dollars) to build, and an estimated 27 men died during its construction.
On May 30, 1883, six days after the opening, a woman falling down the stairway caused a stampede, which resulted in at least twelve people being crushed and killed. On May 17, 1884, P. T. Barnum helped to squelch doubts about the bridge's stability—while publicizing his famous circus—when one of his most famous attractions, Jumbo, led a parade of 21 elephants over the Brooklyn Bridge.
During the Cold War, a fallout shelter was constructed beneath the Manhattan approach. The abandoned space in one of the masonry arches still contained the emergency survival supplies for a potential nuclear attack by the Soviet Union when rediscovered in 2006 during a routine inspection.
The Brooklyn Bridge gradually deteriorated due to age, and in June 1981, two of the diagonal stay cables snapped, seriously injuring a pedestrian who later died. The anchorages were subsequently found to have developed rust, and an emergency cable repair was necessitated less than a month later after another cable developed slack. Soon after, the city commenced a 15-year, $153 million rehabilitation of the Brooklyn Bridge in advance of the 100th anniversary. As part of the project, the Brooklyn Bridge's original suspender cables installed by J. Lloyd Haigh were replaced by Bethlehem Steel in 1986, marking the cables' first replacement since construction. In a smaller project, the bridge was floodlit at night starting in 1982 to highlight its architectural features.
The centennial celebrations on May 24, 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. Media coverage of the centennial was declared "the public relations triumph of 1983" by Inc.
Beginning on May 22, 2008, five days of festivities celebrated the 125th anniversary of the bridge's opening. 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, artist Paul St George installed the Telectroscope, a video link between New York City and London, on the Brooklyn side of the bridge. The installation lasted for a few weeks and permitted viewers in New York City to see people looking into a matching telectroscope near London's Tower Bridge. A newly renovated pedestrian connection to the DUMBO neighborhood was also unveiled before the anniversary celebrations.
After the 2007 collapse of the I-35W highway bridge in Minneapolis, public attention focused on the condition of bridges across the U.S. The New York Times reported that the Brooklyn Bridge approach ramps received a rating of "poor" during its inspection in 2007. According to a NYC Department of Transportation spokesman, the poor rating did not indicate a dangerous state but rather implied it required renovation. A US$508 million project (equivalent to US$584 million in 2018) to renovate the approaches began in 2010, with the full bridge renovation beginning in early 2011. The project was originally scheduled to run until 2014, but did not actually finish until April 2015. Work included widening two approach ramps from one to two lanes by re-striping a new prefabricated ramp; raising clearance over the eastbound Interstate 278 at York Street, on the double-deck Brooklyn-Queens Expressway; seismic retrofitting; replacement of rusted railings and safety barriers; and road deck resurfacing. The nature of the work necessitated detours for four years.
In August 2016, after the renovation of the bridge deck had been completed, the New York City Department of Transportation announced that it would conduct a seven-month, $370,000 study to verify if the bridge could support a heavier upper deck that consisted of an expanded bicycle and pedestrian path. As of 2016[update], about 10,000 pedestrians and 3,500 bikers use the pathway on an average weekday. Work on the pedestrian entrance on the Brooklyn side was underway by 2017.
In July 2018, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved a further renovation of the Brooklyn Bridge's suspension towers and approach ramps, with construction scheduled to begin in mid-2019. That December, the federal government gave the city $25 million in funding. This would pay for a $337 million rehabilitation of the bridge approaches and the suspension towers.
Pedestrian and vehicular access
The Brooklyn Bridge originally carried horse-drawn and rail traffic, with a separate elevated walkway along the centerline for pedestrians and bicycles. Since 1950, the main roadway has carried six lanes of automobile traffic. Because of the roadway's height (11 ft (3.4 m) posted) and weight (6,000 lb (2,700 kg) posted) restrictions, commercial vehicles and buses are prohibited from using this bridge. The two inside traffic lanes once carried elevated trains of the Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT) from points in Brooklyn 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 to vehicles from the Brooklyn entrances of Tillary/Adams Streets, Sands/Pearl Streets, and Exit 28B of the eastbound Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. In Manhattan, cars can enter from either direction of the FDR Drive, Park Row, Chambers/Centre Streets, and Pearl/Frankfort Streets. Pedestrian and bicycle access to the bridge from the Brooklyn side is from either Tillary/Adams Streets (in between the vehicular entrance/exit) or a staircase on Prospect Street between Cadman Plaza East and West. In Manhattan, the pedestrian walkway is accessible from the end of Centre Street or through the free south staircase of the Brooklyn Bridge–City Hall/Chambers Street subway station complex.
Exits and entrances
Access to the bridge is provided by a complex series of ramps on both the Manhattan and Brooklyn sides of the bridge.
|Brooklyn||Brooklyn Heights||0.0||0.0||Tillary Street / Adams Street south||At-grade intersection; no bridge access from eastbound Tillary Street|
|0.3||0.48||Sands Street||Northbound entrance only|
|0.4||0.64||I-278 (Brooklyn–Queens Expressway) / Cadman Plaza West||Southbound exit and northbound entrance; exit 28B on I-278|
|Manhattan||Financial District||1.3||2.1||FDR Drive / Pearl Street||Northbound exit and southbound entrance; exit 2 on FDR Drive|
|1.4||2.3||Park Row south||Northbound exit and southbound entrance|
|1.5||2.4||Chambers Street / Centre Street to NY 9A / Church Street|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi|
The Brooklyn Bridge has a wide walkway open to pedestrians and cyclists in the center of the bridge above the automobile lanes. In 1971, a center line was painted to separate cyclists from pedestrians, creating one of the city's first dedicated bike lanes. More than 4,000 pedestrians and 3,100 cyclists cross the Brooklyn Bridge each day.
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, people commuting to work used the bridge joined by Mayors Ed Koch and Michael Bloomberg who crossed as a gesture to the affected public. Following the 1965, 1977, and 2003 blackouts and most famously after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, people leaving Manhattan used the bridge after MTA suspended subway service.
During the 2003 event, many crossing the bridge reported a swaying motion. The higher than usual pedestrian load caused this swaying coupled with the tendency of pedestrians to synchronize their footfalls with a sway, amplifying the motion. Several engineers expressed concern about how this would affect the bridge, although others noted that the bridge did withstand the event and that the redundancies in its design—the inclusion of the three support systems (suspension system, diagonal stay system, and stiffening truss)—make it "probably the best secured bridge against such movements going out of control". In designing the bridge, John Roebling had stated that the bridge would sag but not fall, even if one of these structural systems were to fail altogether.
In June 1993, following 13 reconnoiters inside the metal structure, and with the help of a mountain guide, Thierry Devaux illegally performed eight acrobatic bungee jumps above the East River close to the Brooklyn-side pier, in the early morning. He used an electric winch between each acrobatic figure.
There have been several notable jumpers as well. The first person to jump from the bridge was Robert Emmet Odlum, brother of women's rights activist Charlotte Odlum Smith, on May 19, 1885. He struck the water at an angle and died shortly thereafter from internal injuries. Steve Brodie dropped from underneath the bridge in July 1886, although there is some doubt about this. Larry Donovan made a slightly higher jump from the railing a month later and went on to an international bridge jumping career. Cartoonist Otto Eppers jumped and survived in 1910, and was then tried and acquitted for attempted suicide. A lesser known early jumper was James Duffy of County Cavan, Ireland, who, on April 15, 1895, asked several men to watch him jump from the bridge. Duffy jumped and was not seen again.
Crimes and arrests
On March 1, 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 Palestinian Muslims by Baruch Goldstein that had taken place a few days earlier on February 25, 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.
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.
On July 22, 2014, it was found that the two American flags on the flagpoles atop each tower had been replaced by American flags that had been bleached white. Authorities reviewed surveillance footage and DNA evidence and within two weeks, they found up to nine "persons of interest" with a possible motive being cannabis activism. However, on August 12, 2014, two Berlin artists claimed responsibility for hoisting the two white flags, causing the security panic and investigation by the NYPD. Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermke said the flags were meant to celebrate "the beauty of public space" and the anniversary of the death of German-born John Roebling; Wermke denied that it was an "anti-American statement". The artists say they hand-sewed the two flags into all-white replicas of an American flag and had the original flags ready to return.
Contemporaries marveled at what technology was capable of, and the bridge became a symbol of the optimism at the time of construction. John Perry Barlow wrote in the late 20th century of the "literal and genuinely religious leap of faith" embodied in the Brooklyn Bridge — "the Brooklyn Bridge required of its builders faith in their ability to control technology".
Historical designations and plaques
The Brooklyn Bridge has been listed as a National Historic Landmark since January 29, 1964, and was subsequently added to the National Register of Historic Places in October 15, 1966. The bridge has also been a New York City designated landmark since August 24, 1967, and was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1972. In addition, it was placed on UNESCO's list of tentative World Heritage Sites in 2017.
A bronze plaque is attached to the Manhattan anchorage, which was constructed on a piece of property occupied by the Samuel Osgood House, at 1 Cherry Street in Manhattan. It served as the first Presidential Mansion, housing George Washington, his family, and household staff from April 23, 1789 to February 23, 1790, when New York City was the national capital. Its owner, Samuel Osgood, a Massachusetts politician and lawyer, married Maria Bowne Franklin, widow of Walter Franklin, the New York merchant who built it in 1770. The Osgood House was demolished in 1856.
References to "selling the Brooklyn Bridge" abound in American culture, sometimes as examples of rural gullibility but more often in connection with an idea that strains credulity. For example, "If you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you." George C. Parker and William McCloundy are two early 20th-century con-men who had successfully perpetrated this scam on unwitting tourists.
"Love locks" is a practice by which a couple inscribes a date and their initials onto a lock, attach it to the bridge, and throw the key into the water as a sign of their "everlasting love". Although the origin of the practice is unknown, it is more popular in Europe, where more than 20 countries have at least one city with a similar location. It has reportedly caused damage to certain bridges and is officially illegal in New York City. Workers periodically remove the love locks from the bridge.
The bridge is often featured in wide shots of the New York City skyline in television and film. American Modernist poet Hart Crane used the Brooklyn Bridge as a central metaphor and organizing structure for his second and most important book of poetry, The Bridge. American playwright Mark Violi penned the drama Roebling: The Story of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge is detailed in The Great Bridge (1972), the book by David McCullough, and in Brooklyn Bridge (1981), the first PBS documentary film 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 an accompanying book, as well as the book Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling, The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge (2017).
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