Friday, February 4, 2011

Bridge of the Week #47: Gerritsen Inlet Bridge

This week's bridge is the Gerritsen Inlet Bridge, one of the bridges on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn. It carries three lanes of traffic in each direction and a narrow sidewalk on the south side. It is a fixed steel and concrete bridge and has a 35-foot clearance over the water.

Gerritsen Inlet (also known as Gerritsen Creek) is the westernmost freshwater inlet on Jamaica Bay, and the bridge is the westernmost on the Belt Parkway bike/pedestrian path, which leads from Emmons Ave. and Knapp St. in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn for several miles to the Howard Beach neighborhood in Queens. There are also connecting paths to the bridges to the Rockaways, which I'll cover later, and to Floyd Bennett Field, which I'll talk about later also. It's a great place to get in some good mileage in a natural environment with no or little traffic interruption, but not when there's snow on the ground, as the pathways aren't cleared (see top picture).
The bridge, the inlet, a street and a beach in the area are named after Wolphert Gerritse, an early 17th-century Dutch settler who built a house and a mill in what is now the nearby Marine Park neighborhood. The mill stood for 300 years before burning down in the 1930's.
The Belt Parkway, or belt system, which is actually a system of connected parkways, of which the Shore Parkway is the most commonly thought of as the Belt Parkway, was proposed by Robert Moses in 1930, and construction began in 1934. The Gerritsen Inlet Bridge was completed in 1940. But since 1940, New York International Airport (now named JFK Airport) opened, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was built, and many Long Island suburbs were developed post-war, all contributing to traffic volumes much higher than the highway and bridges were built for. In 2008, Mayor Bloomberg announced that seven of the Belt bridges, four over water and three over roadways, would be reconstructed. I'm not sure if work has started yet, but I'll find out soon enough. Work on the Gerritsen Inlet Bridge is supposed to start this November and continue until 2015. Pedestrian access is to continue on all bridges during reconstruction. Supposedly the walkway wll be wider. I hope so.
Pictures: 1. The snow-covered walkway over the bridge; 2. The view from the bridge back toward the Manhattan skyline.

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