Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bridge of the Week #25: Hamilton Ave. Bridge

This week's bridge (actually last week's, since I'm a week behind again), the Hamilton Ave. Bridge, is the final bridge over the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, or rather, the first if you're traveling from the Gowanus Bay. The bridge runs northeast-southwest between Smith St. and 2nd Ave. and sits directly underneath the Gowanus Expressway.

This bridge is unique among other bascule drawbridges in that it has two parallel leafs, one carrying the four northbound lanes and a sidewalk and one carrying the four southbound lanes and a sidewalk. I'm not aware of another bridge in New York City with this feature, but then again I'm not done yet! The bridge was built in 1942 and recently had some major reconstruction work done. I'm only assuming that it was named indirectly after Alexander Hamilton, as there are a number of place names in Brooklyn that include Hamilton, beginning with Fort Hamilton in the Bay Ridge neighborhood.

Like the other Gowanus Canal bridges, this sits in a largely industrial area between the residential neighborhoods of Red Hook and Park Slope. Just to the west is Red Hook Park, a nice enough neighborhood park, but not much of a destination, and of course Prospect Park is nearly a mile to the west. The bridge does see heavy auto traffic, and the intersections on either side are not particularly pedestrian-friendly.

To recap, then, the Gowanus Canal bridges from south to north, traveling inland: Hamilton Ave. Bridge, 9th St. Bridge, 3rd Ave. Bridge on the side, 3rd St. Bridge, Carroll St. Bridge, Union St. Bridge. If running in this area, I recommend seeing the Carroll St. Bridge as it is the most unique and has an old-time charm.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bridge of the Week #24: 3rd St. Bridge, 3rd. Ave. Bridge (Brooklyn)

Going back to the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn for this weeks bridges. So sue me, but at least you get two for one - the 3rd St. Bridge and the 3rd Ave. Bridge (not to be confused with the 3rd Ave. Bridge over the Harlem River between Manhattan and the Bronx, whixh I'll cover in an upcoming post).

The 3rd St. Bridge runs generally east-west, between 3rd Ave. and Bond St., parallel to the 9th St. Bridge, Carroll St. Bridge and Union St. Bridge, all profiled earlier. It carries a lane of traffic in each direction and has sidewalks on both sides. It is a bascule drawbridge. I'm sorry I don't have much more information than that. As with the other Gowanus Canal bridges it connects the Red Hook and Park Slope neighborhoods, and has mainly industrial areas in the immediate vicinity.
The 3rd Ave. Bridge, just around the corner, is even less interesting. In fact, my guess is that most people crossing it on foot, by bike or car, don't even know they're crossing a bridge. It is a momentary blip on Third Ave. for a short time between 3rd St. and 6th St. It actually crosses the5th St. Basin, an eastern branch of the Gowanus Canal. Looking over the railing on the western si de you can get a view of the industrial waterway, but it apparently ends just under the bridge, as all you can see over the eastern railing is a few reeds at best. This is a fixed bridge, not a drawbridge. I can't find the length but it's not long, and is at street grade.

That's all for this week. I'll try to do a bigger bridge for the upcoming week. Either that or the last Gowanus Canal bridge.
Pics: 1. On 3rd St. Bridge, looking south; 2. On 3rd Ave. Bridge, looking west

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bridge of the Week #23: Union Street Bridge

OK, this is another little Gowanus Canal bridge that doesn't have much of interest, but it's a bridge nonetheless. The Union Street Bridge is a twin bascule drawbridge on Union Street between Bond St. and Nevins St. It carries two lanes of eastbound traffic and has sidewalks on both sides.

See my posts about the 9th St. Bridge and Carroll St. Bridge for information about this part of Brooklyn. I couldn't find much technical information about the bridge, but it was opened in 1905 and has a main span of 56 feet. It is the northernmost bridge over the Gowanus Canal, which terminates just a couple of blocks north.

I am a little behind, so I'll try to get two more in by the end of this week, and I'll try not to make them too boring.
Pics: 1. Union St. Bridge; 2. Gownus Canal north to terminus from Union St. Bridge

Race Report: Bronx Half Marathon

Today was the Bronx Half Marathon, the fourth in the series of half marathons in each borough of the city. This will be the first year I'll be able to run all five. The last, on Staten Island, will be in October.

I've run this race several times before, when it was in summer and in winter. It's an odd and somewhat convoluted series of out-and-backs, centered around the Jerome Reservoir, using Sedgewick Ave., Moshulu Parkway and the Grand Concourse. It's actually a fairly fast course, and I've run well there in the past.

It's also a course that's close to my home, only about three miles on bike. So a little after 6 a.m. I was on my bike across the University Heights Bridge. After locking my bike, dropping my bag and finding my corral, we were off at the 7 a.m. start. Weather was good, relatively cool and with cloud cover. After the first mile I was into a comfortable pace and surrounded by many runners I would be surrounded by throughout the race. In fact, there was one runner from New York Flyers who I was going back and forth with the whole time. I was confident a number of times that I'd be able to drop him, but he kept coming back, and approaching mile 12, he passed me for good. Still, I kept a decent and fairly consistent pace, if not as fast as I've run in the past, and finished in 1:24:46. in 82nd place, 80th place among men.

I didn't actually see to many runners I knew here. After the race I saw Emmy Stocker, who was using the race as a fun run, after a race the day before. Also I saw Ralph Yozzo, a West Side teammate, and chatted with him briefly after the race.

But it was a good race, and even hanging out a while after the race I was back on my bike and home by 9:15, with plenty of time for a good nap!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Race Report: NYRR Team Championships

Today was a beautiful day for the NYRR Team Championships, 5 miles in Central Park, with separate races for men (8:00 am) and women (9:00 am). It was open only to runners who are members of a running team, and I was proud to run for the West Side Runners (WSX).

I personally didn't have high expectations for the race itself, since I'm still not 100% after Badwater and the Queens Half Marathon. And with this being the most competitive race on the calendar, I wouldn't be likely to score for my team or get any age group awards. Plus, it seems like the shorter, faster races lately have aggravated my tight left hamstring, so I'm a little cautious, but it still works as a good speed workout. And it was good weather with lower humidity and a temperature of 70 degrees. Normally I'd be able to run under 30 minutes, but today I was happy with 30:49, which put me at 209th place. But the WSX men's team took the team title, along with the top five places, led by overall winner Kumsa Adugna Megersa.

But the main attraction of this race is the post-race picnic, and general socialization. It was good to chat with team leader Bill Staab and the other West Siders, including ultrarunners Admas Belilgne, Chip Tilden and Ralph Yozzo. Admas and Chip didn't run today but stopped by for support, and Chip took lots of pictures too. It was also nice to meet friends from other teams. Not surprisingly, right as I walked into the park and up to the port-a-potties near the start, who was there but Frank Colella, of the Taconic Runners. I'd see his teammate Emmy Stocker after the women's race, as she came through looking strong. Also after the race I chatted a bit with my Van Cortlandt friends Mike Oliva, Kevin Shelton-Smith and Mike Arnstein.

So a good day for a run and early enough to get home and take a nap!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bridge of the Week #22: Henry Hudson Bridge

This week's bridge is one of the really good ones - the Henry Hudson Bridge. This bridge carries the Henry Hudson Parkway over Sputen Duyvil Creek (the proper name for that westernmost section of what most people call the Harlem River) between the Inwood neighborhood and Inwood Hill Park of Manhattan and Spuyten Duyvil (rhymes with Titan Rival - it just does, accept it) in the Bronx. It is situated at the very northern tip of Manhattan Island just east of where the Hudson River meets tke Spuyten Duyvil Creek (or Harlem River if you prefer).

The bridge had been discussed and planned since 1904. It was to have been completed in time for the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson's 1609 exploration of the currently-named Hudson River. But all that was built was a 100-foot tall marble column in the Riverdale section of the Bronx that was to have been topped by a statue of Hudson and was to stand at the northern end of the Henry Hudson Bridge. It took Robert Moses in 1934 to finally bring the project to fruition. He conceived the bridge along with a parkway to connect upper Manhattan with Westchester County's Saw Mill River Parkway, via the Bronx.

Most planners favored the parkway to follow a route east of Fort Tryon Park and Inwood Hill Park, in order to avoid damaging precious parkland in Manhattan and the Bronx. But by going through the parks, with "park access roads," Moses' project actually qualified for federal money from the Civil Works Administration. Plus, he avoided costly eminent domain issues. Construction began in June 1935 and the bridge opened on December 12, 1936.

The bridge, designed by David Steinman, is a steel arch bridge that features an 840-foot main span, the longest such steel arch span in the world at the time it was built. The total length of the bridge is 2,209 feet. At its center it has a clearance of 143 feet above the river. Its lower deck carries four lanes of traffic southbound, and the upper deck, completed in 1938, carries three lanes of traffic northbound. The single pedestrian walkway is on the west side of the bridge alongside the lower deck. It is a toll bridge, with a $3 toll being collected each way. I've just heard that the MTA plans to implement a boothless-toll pilot program that deducts the fare from the driver's EZ Pass reader, or sends a bill to the owner's home.

The pedestrian walkway had been closed since June 2007 to facilitate repairs and other work on the bridge, but it just repoened a few weeks ago, so hurray! It is not very wide, about six feet, that must be shared with cyclists, who are supposed to walk their bikes across. I've never seen much traffic on the walkway. It is accessible in the Bronx on Henry Hudson Parkway West (an access road to the parkway) near its southern end, just east of its intersection with Independence Ave. In Manhattan, the walkway is accessible only by park pathways in the hilly forested sections of Inwood Hill Park. The correct path can be tough to find at first, so if anyone wants specific directions, let me know.

The bridge gives great views of the Hudson River, and the Palisades of New Jersey. You can also look down on the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge, a low-lying drawbridge just to the west that carries Amtrak's rail lines over the river. On the Manhattan side, runners can enjoy the hilly, forested paths of Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan's last remaining undisturbed forestland. The park also has nice open areas and ballfields on its eastern side, alongside Indian Road, and has the Dyckman Fields on the west, right along the Hudson River. The nearest subway station would be the 215th St. station on the 1 line, on 10th Ave., just east of Broadway.

In the Bronx, runners can enjoy even more hillwork in Spuyten Duyvil and Riverdale. Of particular note is Palisade Ave., a low-traffic street which runs parallel to the Hudson River, and passes in front of some of the most interesting homes in New York City, and continues northward alongside Riverdale Park, where you can step off-road for some easy trail running. But just to the west of the walkway entrance, at Independence Ave., is Henry Hudson Park. Here stands the marble column built in 30-year anticipation of the bridge, complete with its statue of Henry Hudson on top. The nearest subway station is the 225th St. station on the 1 train at Broadway, a ways to the east of the bridge, but directly under the bridge at water's edge lies the Spuyten Duyvil station on Metro North's Hudson Line.

Pics: 1. Henry Hudson Bridge from Inwood Hill Park; 2. The bridge from the Spuyten Duyvil Metro North station in the Bronx; . Henry Hudson's column and statue in the Bronx