Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bridge of the Week #8: Ward's Island Footbridge

This week's featured bridge is the Ward's Island Footbridge, opened on May 18, 1951. It is a lift drawbridge for pedestrians and bikes between Manhattan and Ward's Island over the northern end of the East River. It is 1,247 feet long and 12 feet wide. On the Manhattan side it connects by ramp to the East River walkway at about 102nd St., and an overpass that gets to the west side of the FDR Drive for street access. The east end of the bridge lets out on the southwest corner of Ward's Island.

The bridge is open only during daytime from spring through fall. I'm not sure of the specific hours or dates, but I thought it was April through October, although I was pleasantly surprised to see it open last Saturday. It is raised when closed, so it's easy to tell from a distance if it is open or not.

Ward's Island, which sits at the confluence of the East and Harlem Rivers (neither of which is an actual river), was joined by landfill to its nearby neighbor, Randall's Island in the early 1930's when the land was developed for park use. Much of Ward's Island recently underwent reconstruction, but is almost fully open now. With Ward's Island and Randall's Island (still spoken of in separate terms) there are soccer fields, baseball fields, bike paths, a driving range, I believe a tennis center, and other standard park facilities. Randall's Island is also home to Icahn Stadium, a world-class track which every summer hosts the Reebok Grand Prix, bringing many world-class runners to New York. Cirque de Soleil also sets up shop there sometimes. Ward's Island also has the Manhattan Psychiatric Center, the Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center and a waste water treatment plant. At one time it was a potter's field. Ward's Island and Randall's Island belong to the borough of Manhattan.

The other major inhabitant of Ward's Island and Randall's Island is the Triborough Bridge (which I will cover in a later post), which also provides pedestrian access to the islands, as well as vehicular access. Special mention should also be made of the Hell Gate Bridge, a railroad bridge that uses the land for a connection between the Bronx and Queens. For mass transportation, you can take the M35 bus to the islands from Harlem.

Ward's Island was named after Jasper and Bartholomew Ward to owned the land after the Revolutionary War. Randall's Island was named after Jonathan Randel (or Randal), who owned the island in the late 1700's after the British withdrawal.
There is also a history of ultrarunning on Randall's Island, as it used to be the location of the Sri Chinmoy 6- and 10-day races, now held in Flushing Meadows, Queens.


  1. The bridge definitely still exists. I just saw it yesterday and the sign says it will be reopening on 1-July-2011.