Brooklyn Bridge

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Brooklyn Bridge
Image:Brooklyn Bridge Postdlf.jpg
Carries Motor vehicles, elevated trains (until 1944), streetcars (until 1950), pedestrians, and bicycles
Crosses East River
Locale New York City (ManhattanBrooklyn)
Maintained by New York City Department of Transportation
Design Suspension bridge
Longest span 1,595 feet 6 inches (486.3 m)
Total length 5,989 feet (1825 m)
Width 85 feet (26 m)
Clearance below 135 feet at mid-span (41 m)
AADT 145,000
Opening date May 24, 1883

The Brooklyn Bridge (originally the New York and Brooklyn Bridge), one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States, stretches 5,989 feet (1825 m)<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> over the East River connecting the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. On completion, it was the largest suspension bridge in the world and the first steel-wire suspension bridge.


[edit] History

Plan of one tower for the Brooklyn Bridge, 1867.

Construction began in January 3, 1870. The Brooklyn Bridge was completed thirteen years later and was opened for use on May 24, 1883. On that first day, a total of 1,800 vehicles and 150,300 people crossed. The bridge's main span over the East River is 1,595 feet 6 inches (486.3 meters). The bridge cost $15.1 million to build and approximately 27 people died during its construction. A week after the opening, on May 30, a rumor that the Bridge was going to collapse caused a stampede which crushed twelve people.

At the time it opened, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world — fifty percent longer than any previously built — and it has become a treasured landmark. Additionally, for several years the towers were the tallest structures in the Western Hemisphere. Since the 1980s, it has been floodlit at night to highlight its architectural features. The bridge is built from limestone, granite, and Rosendale natural cement. The architecture style is Gothic, with characteristic pointed arches above the passageways through the stone towers.

Image:LOC Brooklyn Bridge and East River 6.png
The Brooklyn Bridge with a nightime view of the World Trade Center.

The bridge was designed by an engineering firm owned by John Augustus Roebling in Trenton, New Jersey. Roebling and his firm had built earlier and smaller suspension bridges, such as Roebling's Delaware Aqueduct in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge in Cincinnati, Ohio and the Waco Suspension Bridge in Waco, Texas, that served as the engineering prototypes for the final design.

As construction was beginning, Roebling's foot was seriously injured by a ferry when it crashed into a wharf; within a few weeks, he died of tetanus caused by the amputation of his toes. His son, Washington, succeeded him, but was stricken with caisson disease (decompression sickness, commonly known as 'the bends'), due to working in compressed air in caissons, in 1872. Washington's wife, Emily Warren Roebling, became his aide, learning engineering and communicating his wishes to the on-site assistants. When the bridge opened, she was the first person to cross it. Washington Roebling rarely visited the site again, actually residing in Trenton, New Jersey, and elsewhere during most of its construction. In truth, he spent little time looking through the telescope at the project, his near-sightedness causing the most trouble.<ref>David McCullough, The Great Bridge, 476-7]</ref>

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 1950s - well after the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in the 1940s. 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 have been replaced. This is also in spite of the nefarious 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.

Brooklyn bridge, 1890

At various times, the bridge has carried horses and trolley traffic; at present, it has six lanes for motor vehicles, with a separate walkway along the centerline for pedestrians and bicycles. The two inside traffic lanes once carried elevated trains of the BMT from Brooklyn points to a terminal at Park Row. 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.

Image:Brooklyn Bridge railroad.jpg
Brooklyn approach with elevated BMT and streetcar tracks and trains, ca. 1905

The BMT bridge tracks were planned to connect to what is now the Nassau Street Line subway at Chambers Street to form part of the never-finished Centre Street Loop.

The bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 17, 1977 and on March 24, 1983 the bridge was designated a National Historic Engineering Landmark.

The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge is detailed in the 1972 book The Great Bridge by David McCullough and in the first PBS documentary film ever made by Ken Burns, Brooklyn Bridge (1980). Burns drew heavily on McCullough's book for the film and used him as narrator.

The bridge now imposes a weight limit of 3 short tons (2.7 tonnes) with no trucks or buses allowed.

No tolls are charged for cars to use the bridge.

[edit] 1994 Terrorist Attack

On March 1, 1994, Lebanese-born Rashid Baz opened fire on a van carrying members of the Chabad-Lubavitch Orthodox Jewish sect, striking 16-year old student Ari Halberstam and three others traveling on the bridge. Halberstam died 5 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 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 FBI 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<ref>Ari Halberstam Memorial Ramp</ref>.

[edit] 2003 Plot

In 2003, truck driver Iyman Faris was sentenced to 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 cancelled.

[edit] 2006 Cold War Cache Discovery

On Tuesday, March 21, 2006, a cache was found in the Brooklyn Bridge by New York City Department of Transportation employees, who were conducting maintenance on the structure. The cache contained food and medical supplies, and was apparently a bunker from the Cold War era. Its purpose is currently unknown, but it is believed to have been used for holding supplies in the event of a nuclear attack on New York City. Spokeswoman Kay Sarlin said one of the containers was marked, "To be opened after attack by the enemy." The stockpile included empty water drums and boxes of medical supplies, such as tourniquet bandages and an intravenous drip. Also, there were cans of high-calorie crackers with instructions to consume 1,000 calories a day per person. The instructions said the crackers should be destroyed after 10 years, but they were mostly intact. Sarlin said the space historically has been used for storage, but the department did not have any indication that the cache was stored there. "It's hard to believe that the space was meant to be a fallout shelter, because it is not underground and light and air does get inside it," she said. "Could it have been a bunker for the mayor? We don't know." The Department of Transportation plans to donate the drums and cans to a civil defense museum, while it will turn over the medical supplies to the city's Department of Health for disposal. <ref>Cold War Cache</ref>

[edit] A bridge for pedestrians in an age of automobiles

Image:NYEastRiver From WTC.jpg
A World Trade Center view of the Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge, and the East river.

The Brooklyn Bridge has a center lane open to bicycles and pedestrians, just above automobile traffic. 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 crisis and becomes a symbol of New Yorkers' resilience.

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 to show solidarity with the inconvenienced public. Following the 1965, 1977 and 2003 Blackouts and most famously after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, the bridge was used by people in Manhattan to leave the city after subway service was suspended.

[edit] Cultural significance

Looking up at a tower
View from the pedestrian path of the Brooklyn Bridge (2005)
Image:Brooklyn Bridge at Night.jpg
Brooklyn Bridge at night

Contemporaries marveled at what technology was capable of and the bridge became a symbol of the optimism of the time. 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." <ref>Cultural Significance</ref>

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 have a wonderful bargain for you…" References are often nowadays more oblique, such as "I could sell you some lovely riverside property in Brooklyn ... "

In his second book The Bridge, Hart Crane begins with a poem entitled "Poem: To Brooklyn Bridge." The bridge was a source of inspiration for Crane and he owned different apartments specifically to have different views of the bridge.

[edit] Film

[edit] Television

  • A TV show called Brooklyn Bridge aired in prime time from 1991 through 1993 on CBS.
  • The Brooklyn Bridge is featured in Disney's Oliver & Company as the bridge itself but with the automobile lanes covered.
  • An aerial view of the Brooklyn Bridge, in winter, with snow on the pedestrian path, is featured in the opening sequence to Law and Order SVU
  • A dramatization of the challenges faced by the Roebling family during construction of the bridge are portrayed in the BBC documentary series Seven Wonders of the Industrial World.
  • On The Fairly Oddparents, a short scene of the world laughing at the end of the episode "Information Stupor Highway" shows New York City laughing with an animated Brooklyn Bridge.
  • The span is seen in several episodes of The Cosby Show.
  • The bridge is used in the season 3 opener of CSI: NY, People with Money, where a young couple was murdered while allegedly "having sex". A woman in this episode was attacked by a keychain knife, leading the detectives to investigate the heinous crime.

[edit] Other Media

[edit] References


[edit] External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

[edit] Further reading

  • McCullough, David. (1972). The Great Bridge. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-21213-3
  • Cadbury, Deborah (2004), Dreams of Iron and Steel, New York, NY, HarperCollins, ISBN 0-00-716307-X
Image:Brooklyn Bridge Postdlf.jpg Bridges and tunnels in New York City
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Preceded by:
John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge
List of Largest Suspension Bridges
1883 - 1903
Succeeded by:
Williamsburg Bridge

Crossings of the East River
Manhattan Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge
Cranberry Street Tunnel
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Brooklyn Bridge

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