Buon giorno and welcome to A Road Retraveled!
In this 2007 travel episode we explored New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge and Pier 17 on a drive to New York City on Sunday afternoon.
As today is Sunday parking (especially free parking) is possible to find. Do not attempt this during work week. You’ll run out of gas looking for parking, and then break your bank account paying for a parking garage…which can easily be $20 bucks a pop.
Brooklyn Bridge is an icon of the New York City skyline, a national landmark, and one of the oldest suspension buildings in the United States connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan across East River. Stretching nearly 6,000 feet, it was not only the largest suspension bridge in the world, but the first steel-wire suspension bridge of its time. When construction began in 1870, steel was highly suspicious for durability, and even illigal to use in any building structure in Great Britain. The architect, John Augustus Roebling, born in Germany, revolutionized bridge building but paid with his life, when due to a freak accident, died at the onset of the construction, and his son, Washington Roebling, who took over as chief engineer. His health also suffered from suddenly from a crippling Caisson Disease, also known as the Bends, a paralyzing and often deadly affliction that caused the death of 3 men and affected nearly all of the caisson laborers who worked in underwater excavations for the foundations of the Brooklyn Bridge. During that time, decompression chambers didn’t exist, and there was little to be done to prevent the bends. The bridge cost $15.5 million dollars to build, and the lives of more than 27 people.
Inspite of deaths and debilitating accidents, a fire, corruption and fraud, the bridge was completed in 14 years, with opening day on May 24, 1883 complete with a huge reception and fire works. 150,000 people crossed the bridge on opening day, and at 5 PM, it opened to vehicles — a total of 1,800 crossed on the first day. There was, though, a toll of 5 cents to drive across the bridge on its opening day. Pedestrians still share the Brooklyn Bridge with vehicles on the promenade…an addition defended by its original architect who predicted it will serve well the people of New York.
Here are a few more interesting facts about the Brooklyn Bridge:~ There are 4 Suspension Cables, each 15 3/4″ wide and over 3,500 feet in length. ~ Each cable has 5,434 wires. ~ The total length of the wires are 14,060 miles ~ 144,000 Vehicles cross on a daily basis on its 6 traffic lanes. ~ Without the vehicles and pedestrians, the bridge weighs 14,680 tons.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, the bridge was used by people in Manhattan to leave the city after subway service was suspended. The massive numbers of people on the bridge could not have been anticipated by John Roebling but designed it with three separate systems handling even unanticipated structural stresses. Roebling himself famously said if anything happens to one of [his] systems, ‘The bridge may sag, but it will not fall. And he was right!
The three bridges that span the East River and connect Manhattan to Brooklyn are arranged, from South to North, according to the mnemonic BMW: the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge.
Pier 17 on the South Street Seaport is a step back in time to get in touch with the Old New York, where in the 1800’s, this area served as the main trade and business center for Manhattan. To demonstrate the history of this place, you’re transported to what life was like in this New York neighborhood in the mid 1800’s, with historic buildings, cobble stones, and museum ships.
Located in Lower Manhattan’s contemporary Financial District, South Street Seaport with its sailing vessels pointing their masts upward parallel to glass sky scrapers that were built nearly a century later, is a sight to see. History and Future side by side. Not so obvious against the ultra contemporary sky scrapers, is cobble stoned Fulton Street, lined with museums, markets, shops, bars, and restaurants in historic brick buildings. Right now they have the Bodies exhibition. They had it in Florida too…I didn’t have the stomach for it then, and I certainly don’t have it now!! There’s a reason why we have skin….and I don’t need the image of what’s behind it embedded in my head, especially when I’m hungry and craving a steak.
The Seaport itself built on Pier 17, now operates primarily as a mall and tourism center, offering visitors shops, restaurants and a food court. Pretty much your typical mall….but!!! I’ll bet YOUR typical mall doesn’t have a wraparound wooden patio with deckchairs overlooking the stunning Brooklyn Bridge and the East River below! Nor, does it have a view of the docked historical sailing vessels: the Flying P-Liner and the museum ship Peking that’s a must see for history buffs and high-seas enthusiasts who love to explore the rich history of the New York Harbor and the daily life of sailors a century ago. And right behind them, the beautiful Financial District buildings that are lined up.