Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bridge of the Week #50: Muskrat Cove Footbridge

After more than a year (with a few weeks off for one reason or another), we're still not done with the bridges, but we've hit the big 5-0. For this big number, I've chosen probably the smallest bridge on the whole list, the Muskrat Cove Footbridge.

I'll say again that for this project I'm not including most footbridges, particularly within parks, but I will if they cross a significant waterway or otherwise have some significance for runners. Like the Burke Ave. Bridge, this one crosses the Bronx River in the Bronx, but a ways farther north still. This bridge can be accessed by a paved bike path that begins at the Woodlawn Metro North station on the north side of E. 233 St. The path continues to the north for about 3/4 of a mile on the west bank of the river to the footbridge. However, on the east side of the bridge the path deadends, as there is no paved path, and there doesn't appear to be a dirt path that goes anywhere, only signs warning you not to go past a fence lest you be trespassing on railroad property. According to the Web site of the Bronx River Alliance, a nonprofit that is helping clean up, restore and educate the public about the Bronx River, a dirt pathway is or was planned from the east side of the bridge back to the station, but it doesn't currently look like that area is very passable. That Web site is also where I discovered that that section along the river is called Muskrat Cove. They also described the footbridge as "scenic", but the bridge itself is small and short and looks kind of rusted out actually!

Still, despite the short length and deadend nature of the path, it's a very nice and scenic place to run. It follows the river under the Bronx River Parkway and underneath the Nereid Ave. Bridge (to be discussed later). At one point you'll see a highway sign on the Bronx River Parkway saying you are entering Westchester County, but I am sure that the land immediately along the river is still in New York City, as are the streets to the east, although the streets to the west are in Yonkers. Also, at the trail head at the train station is a marker that maps the length of the Bronx River, which is a nice and interesting item to look at. On the south of the train station is E. 233rd St., with another bridge that I'll discuss later, and south of there the park pathway continues on the east side of the river.
Pics: 1. Muskrat Cove Footbridge; 2. Bronx River marker; 3. Pathway passage under the Bronx River Parkway

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bridge of the Week #49: Congressman Joesph P. Addabbo Bridge

Yes, make sure you put "Congressman" in there. This is the Congressman Joseph P. Addabbo Bridge, which carries Cross Bay Boulevard from 165th Ave. in Howard Beach over the Grassy Bay section of Jamaica Bay to Rulers Bar Hassock, or Broad Channel, on the way to the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge and the Rockaways.
This is a fixed girder bridge. Considering that it's a significant bridge, I'm surprised to have had such a hard time finding out specific information on it. I haven't found anywhere that gives its length, but it's roughly 3,000 feet long. It has a rise toward the center to allow boats to pass underneath that section. It replaces the old North Channel Bridge, and was built starting in 1988 and opened, I believe, in 1991. It was named for Joseph P. Addabbo, congressman from the area from 1961 to 1986.

This is a significant bridge for recreation in New York City. For runners, it's quite a ways out there from Manhattan, or even Brooklyn, but for a good long run it's an excellent place to go. On the Howard Beach side, there is some street running involved, but with little trouble you can connect to the Belt Parkway pathways. On the south, there is a rather long paved pathway along Rulers Bar Hassock that leads to Broad Channel, a small island neighborhood, still in Queens. The bridge, the hassock and the many surrounding small islands and wetlands fall within the Gateway National Recreation Area (which also includes areas in Brooklyn, Staten Island and New Jersey). From Broad Channel you can access the Cross Bay Veteran's Memorial Bridge to the Rockaways, and even return to Brooklyn on the Marine Parkway Bridge, both of which I'll discuss in later posts. Actually I should qualify my earlier comment that it's an excellent place to run, and exclude times when there's snow on the ground, as the bridge is apparently never cleared of snow and ice (see above pics). The day I ran across it several weeks ago, it was most unpleasant. Again, the things I do for you guys.

The bridge also received the "Best Bridge" award from Transportation Alternatives, a cycling advocacy group, for its three non-vehicular lanes on each side of the bridge! There is an on-road bike lane, a pedestrian sidewalk which is separated by a concrete barrier, and a fishing area on the outside, separated from the sidewalk by a high chain-link fence. While the bridge receives high marks for its attention to such recreation, apparently there are a lot of complaints about fishermen (and women) leaving a lot of trash behind, even throwing trash and fish and crab parts onto the sidewalk and roadway. One blogger mentions seagulls landing on the roadway to pick up fish parts, only to meet their demise in traffic, which does damage to cars as well. I have no doubt there is a lot of trash underneath all that snow. Other forms of misbehavior on the bridge, including vandalism, have been attributed to the fishermen as well. But, in any case, sidewalks are easily accessed on either side.

And most of the time, it is a good place to run. If you don't want to run there all the way from your house, you can take the A train to the Howard Beach/JFK Airport stop (the airport is just across the bay to the east), go north to 157th Ave. and west to Cross Bay Boulevard, then south to the bridge. There is also an A train stop in Broad Channel and several in the Rockaways. The A train takes a separate bridge across the bay, and it is a very pleasant ride in itself.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bridge of the Week Update: Willis Ave. Bridge

I talked about the Willis Ave. Bridge way back in October I think it must have been, right after they opened the new bridge, just before the New York Marathon. At that time, the old and new bridges stood side by side, with the new bridge taking the vehicles across the Harlem River, and the old bridge still taking pedestrians across.

Since then, the old bridge has been dismantled and the pedestrians now get to cross on the new, wide walkway of the new brown bridge, and it's actually quite a nice way to go (see pic above). But there are a couple items to note.
Construction crews are still removing the last remains of the old bridge approaches on both sides, so the pedestrian entrances are a bit out of the way. In Manhattan, the entrance is accessed from 126th St. and 1st Ave., like the temporary entrance to the old bridge, but you have to walk on the ground further, going under an old roadway, before climbing the stairs to the bridge. In the Bronx, access can still be had from the south side of Brucker Blvd. at Willis Ave., but you really have to walk way out of the way before crossing over a temporary overpass to get to the bridge. But it can be done!
The ohter interesting item is that the two spans of the old bridge are still sitting in the river just north of the bridge. (The old bridge had a shorter swing span and one fixed truss span. The new bridge just has the longer swing span.) I do not know what they are planning to do with them. Turn them into scrap metal I suppose, but until then they're on display in the Harlem River. All of this, by the way, is actually accurate as of about a week and a half ago, but I doubt anything has changed since then.

Bridge of the Week #48: E. 241 St. Bridge

This week we're back to the Bronx River (no we're still not done yet) to the northernmost bridge in the whole city* - the E. 241 St. Bridge in the Bronx. This bridge I have very little information about, but it carries E. 241 St. from Carpenter Ave. in the Wakefield neghborhood of the Bronx, over Bronx Blvd. and Bullard Ave., over the Metro North railroad tracks at the Wakefield station, over the Bronx River and the Bronx River Parkway before reaching Bronx River Road in Yonkers, where E. 241 St. continues on as Wakefield Ave.
This is a simple, fixed steel and concrete girder bridge, there is one lane of traffic in each direction and a sidewalk on both sides, although there are no pedestrian signals on the Yonkers side on the south sidewalk, so you take your life into your hands trying to get across the intersection unless you use the north sidewalk. The north sidewalk also leads directly to Wakefield Park in Yonkers, just a small park. There is really nothing of much interest to runners here, there is no Bronx River park pathway in this area. In NYC the pathway essentially ends at E. 233rd St. (although I'll go into greater detail about that later), and whether it picks up again farther north in Westchester for any significant distance I don't know, but not in the nearby area. But Wakefield is the neighborhood that sticks up NNE of the main boundary line between New York City and Westchester County, kind of like that little piece of Minnesota that sticks up into Canada.
*A note about this being the northernmost bridge in the city. One map I have (paper map) shows that there may be a tiny sliver of land within the New York city limits that extends far enough north wedged between Mount Vernon and Yonkers to reach Mount Vernon Ave., at which point there is another bridge across the Bronx River. Having visited the spot, the street signs on the east side of the bridge are clearly Mount Vernon street signs, and on the west are clearly Yonkers street signs. Looking back at my map, if there is a sliver of land within the New York City limits it would have to be only the railroad tracks and possibly the Mount Vernon West station there at the most. So I don't consider this a New York City bridge. But even if some completist does, it's been mentioned, so there.
Pics: 1. The bridge from Bullard Ave. in the Bronx; 2. The bridge from Yonkers.

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.