Friday, June 3, 2011

Bridge of the Week #59: Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge

Back to the bridges! Sorry for the few weeks off. I'll try to get caught up if I can. But this week's bridge is the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge. It provides a link between the Floyd Bennett Field area of Brooklyn and the Rockaway Peninsula of Queens. It was built beginning in 1936 and opened July 3, 1937. It is a vertical lift drawbridge with a lift span of 540 feet and a total length of 4,022 feet. When raised, the bridge gives 150 feet clearance above the water. It crosses the Rockaway Inlet portion of Jamaica Bay, essentially where Jamaica Bay opens out to the ocean. It carries four lanes of traffic on a roadway that is a direct extension of Flatbush Ave., and has a sidewalk on the west side.

The bridge was built by the Marine Parkway Authority, an entity created by, headed by, and entirely populated by Robert Moses. Along with the bridge he built Marine Park in Brooklyn, which consisted basically of a marina and a golf course, and Jacob Riis Park, a beachfront park in the Rockaways. Directly on the north (Brooklyn) side of the bridge is Floyd Bennett Field, which at the time of the bridge's construction was a commercial international airport, although it failed to succeed as such in competition with Newark Airport. In 1974, Floyd Bennett Field, Jacob Riis Park and virtually all parkland in and around Jamaica Bay (except Marine Park) became part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

In 1978, the bridge was renamed in honor of Gil Hodges, former first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers, who also played for the New York Mets late in his career, and managed the Mets from 1968 until his death in 1972. That makes this, I believe, the only bridge in New York City to be named after an athlete.

For runners, the bridge can be an excellent part of a very enjoyable long run. Even aside from exploring Floyd Bennett Field, there is an excellent bike/pedestrian path in Brooklyn along the Belt Parkway from Sheepshead Bay all along the north edge of Jamaica Bay, and along Flatbush Ave. to the bridge. On the Rockaway Peninsula is Jacob Riis Park, and a beach that extends eastward all the way to Far Rockaway at the Nassau County border. You can also include the Cross Bay Memorial Bridge, Broad Channel, the Joseph P. Addabbo Bridge into Howard Beach to complete a large loop around Jamaica Bay, almost entirely on separate pathways or quiet residential streets. And, of course, lots of bridges! More Belt Parkway bridges to come.

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