Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bride of the Week #60: Borden Ave. Bridge

This week's bridge is another little hidden gem - the Borden Ave. Bridge, in Long Island City, Queens.

This bridge crosses Dutch Kills, a northern branch of Newtown Creek (which separates Queens from Brooklyn), on Borden Ave. between 27th St. and Review Ave. It's a two-lane two-way street with sidewalks on both sides (the south sidewalk is currently closed for maintenance), a clearance above the water of only about four feet when closed, and only 127 feet long total.

What makes this bridge special is that it is a retractile drawbridge, meaning that the trapezoid-shaped bridge pulls back horizontally, diagonally, on rails. It is one of only four retractile bridges still operating in the U.S., one of the others being the Carroll St. Bridge in Brooklyn over the Gowanus Canal.

The first bridge on the site was a wooden bridge, built in 1868, which was later replaced by an iron swing bridge. The current bridge was built between 1906 and 1908, opening on March 25. On Dec. 31, 2008 the bridge was closed due to shifts in the western abutment, and reconstruction was required. This was complicated by soil contamination, but the reconstructed bridge was opened on Dec. 23, 2010.

This area of Long Island City, or Sunnyside by some accounts, is a largely industrial area, no running paths or parks nearby, unless you count Calvary Cemetery to the southeast, generally not much of interest to runners unless you're taking a tour of the bridges of Newtown Creek and its tributaries as I did. But the more popular Pulaski Bridge is close by to the west, and the Greenpoint Ave. Bridge not far to the southeast, so if crossing one of those, it's worth a short side trip to see this little gem.

***Addendum: The Borden Ave. Bridge was obviously named after Borden Ave., but the street was apparently named after the Borden Milk Company that opened a plant in the area after the Civil War.

Pics: 1. North side of bridge, with sign telling of six-hour notification requirement for opening bridge; 2. Bridge at street level from the east, with operator's house on the right; 3. The bridge's rails, on the east bank on the south side (and Empire State Building in background).

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