135 years ago today, throngs of New Yorkers came to the Manhattan and Brooklyn waterfronts to celebrate the opening of what was then known as the New York and Brooklyn Bridge. 1,800 vehicles and 150,300 people total crossed what was then the only land passage between Brooklyn and Manhattan. The bridge–later dubbed the Brooklyn Bridge, a name that stuck–went on to become one of the most iconic landmarks in New York. But there’s been plenty of history, and secrets, along the way. Lesser known facts about the bridge include everything from hidden wine cellars to a parade of 21 elephants crossing in 1884. So for the Brooklyn Bridge’s 135th anniversary, 6sqft rounded up its top 10 most intriguing secrets.
Crossing the East River on the ice bridge (1871) via NYPL
While New York City is getting hit by a blast of arctic temperatures this week, New Yorkers of the mid- and late-1800s experienced even colder conditions. During the 19th century, the East River froze over at least seven times, shutting down the Brooklyn Bridge and preventing any ferries from crossing over. But, like today’s New Yorkers, the frozen river never stopped commuters from reaching their destinations. Instead of staying home, people would walk across the frozen East River, skating and slipping along their way.
Photo of the Brooklyn Bridge via pixabay
Dubbed the “Times Square in the Sky,” the Brooklyn Bridge promenade remains the borough’s most popular attraction, experiencing an increase in pedestrian volume by 275 percent between 2008 and 2015. The New York City Department of Transportation released a report on Friday that details ways to reduce the growing congestion of cyclists, pedestrians and vendors on the promenade. After hiring the consulting term AECOM over a year ago to conduct an engineering study aimed at improving safety, DOT has finally outlined steps to be taken in order to limit crowds. As the New York Times reported, the city is exploring ideas like building a separate bike-only entrance to the Manhattan side of the bridge, possibly expanding the width of the promenade and reducing the number of vendors allowed to sell goods, while restricting where they can sell them.
When repairs on the 133-year-old Brooklyn Bridge began in 2010, it was estimated that the massive project would cost about $508 million. Now, that estimate has hit $811 million–$200 million higher than estimates from as recent as last year and almost 60 percent higher than the original number, the New York Post reports.
If you’ve ever had the experience of nearly being flattened by something on foot or wheels while walking or biking across the Brooklyn Bridge on a weekend afternoon, try to survive a little bit longer, help may be on the way. City transportation officials announced Monday that plans were in the works to alleviate the pedestrian and bike traffic that threatens to become “Times Square in the Sky.” The New York Times reports that among the possibilities for the aging bridge is a new path to help reduce some of the current congestion.
Photo via Wiki Commons
In May of 1883, the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge was big international news. The bridge had been under construction for 13 years, and its unveiling was a highly anticipated event. Showman P.T. Barnum, never one to turn down a PR opportunity, offered authorities a novel way to show–and show off–the safety of the new bridge: He’d walk his troupe of elephants across it.
At first, his proposal was rejected. But in 1884, after a woman fell on the side stairs on the Manhattan side, causing a stampede that killed 12 people and making others wary that the bridge would collapse, Barnum’s “elephant walk” (the subject of a June, 2004 New Yorker cover) happened. It was to the amazement of New Yorkers who happened to catch the sight of 21 elephants, 7 camels, and 10 dromedaries (basically furry camels) trekking from the bottom of Cortlandt Street across the illuminated arches of the bridge, with Barnum’s celebrated seven-ton African elephant Jumbo bringing up the rear.
Image via Stanley Greenberg
We know the cavernous passageways and underground chambers of the Brooklyn Bridge hold many secrets–6sqft previously mentioned the Cold War-era bomb shelter, chock-full of supplies and provisions, hidden inside one of the massive stone arches below the bridge’s Manhattan side entrance. But the landmark also harbors a more pleasant secret: In the 1900s, the city rented out vaults beneath the ramps leading up to the bridge entrances for use as wine cellars (h/t NYT). A wine vault on the Manhattan side cost $5,000 a year, while Brooklyn-side storage was a mere $500 annually.
Instagram Photo Gets BK Bridge Climber in Trouble; Dropping Cold Hard Cash for a Luxury Storage Unit, Wed, July 1, 2015
- The NYPD is pissed at a selfie stick wielding tourist who climbed the Brooklyn Bridge for an Instagram-worthy photo. [Animal]
- You could downsize, get a Manhattan Mini Storage unit, or you can drop $65,000 on a steel cage in the basement of a luxury building. [Bloomberg Business]
- See the Manhattan isle fold onto itself like in “Inception” with BERG’s “Here & There” maps. [Untapped Cities]
- The re-designed Madison Square Park Shake Shack may be considered new and improved, but the lead designer of the original joint thinks it’s an “aesthetic disaster.” [Architect’s Newspaper]
- Everything you need to know about chowing down at One World Trade‘s One Dine, One Mix and One Cafe–pretty original names right? [Eater]
Images: The notorious Brooklyn Bridge selfie (L); Steel cage via Bloomberg (R)
Yesterday we looked at a new proposal from MoveNY to toll four East River bridges (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Williamsburg, and Queensboro) and 60th Street in Manhattan in order to “raise funds for the MTA’s five-year capital plan (which is about $15.2 billion short of its target), and to make the cost of the city’s transit more equitable.” Drivers with E-ZPass would pay $5.54 to cross the bridges each way and at all 60th Street avenue crossings, while those without the technology would pay $8, all with the goal of improving mass transit.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Car-happy city folk are sure to grumble over this latest proposal from MoveNY to toll four East River bridges (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Williamsburg and Queensboro) and 60th Street in Manhattan. The group’s plan, backed by former traffic commissioner Sam Schwartz, is looking to raise funds for the MTA’s five-year capital plan (which is about $15.2 billion short of its target), and to make the cost of the city’s transit more equitable. The new program would apply a $5.54 toll each way for bridge-crossers traveling with an E-ZPass, while drivers without an E-Zpass will have to shell out $8 to cross each time. The same tolls would also be applied to all avenue crossings at 60th Street.