Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bridge of the Week #44: Roosevelt Island Bridge

This week's bridge is the Roosevelt Island Bridge, connecting Queens with Roosevelt Island in the East River, providing it with it's only vehicular access, and its only unaided foot access.
The bridge is a vertical lift drawbridge with a 418-foot long lift span and a total length of 2,877 feet. Access in Queens can be had from the intersection of Vernon Boulevard and 36th Ave., and on Roosevelt Island access can be had from a parking garage. It carries one lane of traffic in each direction and has one six-foot sidewalk on the north side. The narrow roadway and grating of the road surface make it difficult for bikes, and cyclists are instructed to dismount and walk their bikes over the bridge.
Construction on the bridge began in 1952 and it opened on May 18, 1955, named the Welfare Island Bridge, taking the name of the island as it was then. The island itself has an interesting history. The Dutch bought it from teh Algonquin in 1637 and named it Varckens Eylandt, or Hog Island. The british took over the island in the 1660's and granted it to Captain John Manning, whose stepdaughter eventually named it Blackwell Island after her husband, Robert Blackwell. It remained private property until 1828 when the City of New York bought it (it is still part of the borough of Manhattan) and built mental institutions, hospitals and prisons there, by 1921 earning it the name Welfare Island. In 1930, vehicles could access the island by an elevator on the Queensboro Bridge. The Welfare Island Bridge made the elevators obsolete and they were finally demolished in 1970. By the late 1960's many of the institutions had been abandoned and the city began plans to develop the island for housing. Today, nearly 10,000 people live on the island. In 1973 the island, and the bridge, were renamed after Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In 1976 a tramway began service from 1st Ave. in Manhattan to the island, and in 1989 a new subway stop on the F line gave people additional access.
The bridge has been undergoing a reconstruction, which appears to be almost complete. Among other things, it's been repainted, so instead of a dull red it's now sort of a maroon or eggplant color. See the second pic above, which I took on Tuesday when it was cold and crappy and raining, so I wasn't in the mood for setting up good pictures. Previously, according to one source the lift span was non-operational, requiring ships to use the west channel of the East River, but according to another source, it was operational whenever the special session of the United Nations was in session, and for security reasons they wanted ships to use the east channel. Either way, it's being fixed.
Roosevelt Island is about two miles long and at most 800 feet wide. With the light traffic it can be a good place for a run. But of all personal access options, the bridge is probably the least appealing and least convenient. In that part of Astoria, Queens, there is Rainey Park on the water a little to the north and Queensbridge Park on the river a little to the south, under the Queensboro Bridge, but in the immediate vicinity are power plants, auto shops and other wonders. It's otherwise just a lot of street running. The tram just reopened after its own reconstruction (if you don't know why, I won't tell you), and it's a fun way to get to the island and takes the Metrocard. The subway stop is one of the deepest below ground on the entire system. It may be the deepest, I'd have to check.

No comments:

Post a Comment