Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bridge of the Week #53: Randall's Island Footbridge

This week's bridge is another rare footbridge that I'm covering. As I've said more than once, I'm generally not worrying about footbridges within parks unless they cross a notable waterway or otherwise have some historical or running significance. This one meets my criteria for interest, although it doesn't have a name that I'm aware of, so I've just called it the Randall's Island Footbridge. This is not to be confused with the Ward's Island Footbridge (previously discussed) which crosses the East River from Manhattan onto Ward's Island.

This is a small footbridge that crosses a marshy inlet between Ward's Island and Randall's Island, the last remnants of the Little Hell Gate, which separated the two islands before it was filled in with construction debris in the years following the completion of the Triborough Bridge (yet to be covered) in 1936. When the Triborough was completed, the two islands were developed as parkland (as well as the psychiatric center, a water treatment plant and a Fire Department Academy), and eventually joined by landfill. There had been a 1,000-foot vehicular bridge between the two islands, which was made obsolete by the landfill, but was only demolished in the 1990's. This bridge was located just east of and parallel to the current road that runs west of Icahn Stadium, and just west of the Hell Gate (railroad) Bridge viaduct.

If you cross the Ward's Island Footbridge from Manhattan (which is currently undergoing work and won't reopen until summer) and turn left, you'll run along a nice new bike/pedestrian path along the west side of the island. This path leads to the footbridge across the inlet to a boardwalk across the marshlands, which leads to the southern end of Icahn Stadium. You can then continue on a road along the western edge of Randall's Island or enter the stadium at the northeast corner. I thought the parkland on the two islands, including the pathway, the presence of Icahn Stadium, and the historical aspect of the joining of the two islands (which are still referred to by separate names) merits inclusion of this bridge on my list.

Icahn Stadium definitely deserves a special mention here. Previously on the site was built the 22,000-seat Triborough Stadium in 1936, the same year the Triborough Bridge was opened. Its opening even on July 11 was the Olympic Trials, which of course was a triumph for Jesse Owens on his way to Berlin. Besides track and field, it was also used for professional football and baseball, as well as music concerts. It had been renamed Randall's Island Stadium, and then in the 1950's Downing Stadium after John J. Downing, a director of New York Parks and Recreation. Downing Stadium was torn down in 2002, replaced by Icahn Stadium, named after donor Carl Icahn, which opened in April 2005. It is one of only four Class 1 internationally-certified (IAAF) tracks in the U.S., and hosts many amateur and professional track meets, including the Adidas Grand Prix, where Usain Bolt broke the 100-meter world record in 2008 (which he broke again a few months later at the Beijing Olympics).

Randall's Island itself was named after Jonathan Randel (or Randal), who bought the island in 1784. His heirs sold it to the city in 1835.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the article on the Randall's Island Elevated Boardwalk Bridge. I was just there birding the island(s) for the first time and enjoyed the island including the view of the boardwalk bridge.

    Here's a link to the design firm and they refer to the structure as the "Little Hell Gate Cove Elevated Boardwalk".

    Here's a link to Google Map I'm developing for birding in New York County with details on places on the island:

    Ben Cacace
    Manhattan, NYC