My Brooklyn Heights Blog colleague made this video. He gave it the title “A Tale of Two Bridges” because it includes scenes of and on both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, but it concentrates on the latter, lesser known span. Lesser known, that is, until recently, according to this New York Times article. The Times piece attributes its new found popularity on the fact that its Brooklyn anchorage is next to DUMBO (“Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”), a neighborhood that has undergone roughly the same evolution that SOHO in Manhattan did starting about two decades earlier: from decaying industrial area to place where artists could occupy cheap if not yet quite legal loft spaces to trendy Bohemian neighborhood to pricey place for the rich but hip, combined with office space for tech companies.
I have a particular affection for the Manhattan Bridge: it was my first crossing of any of the East River bridges. This happened in 1954, when I was eight years old. My parents and I had just returned from England, where my dad, a U.S. Air Force officer, had been stationed for three years. We came by ship, and debarked at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. There we boarded a bus to Penn Station that took us by way of Flatbush Avenue (when we turned onto this broad thoroughfare my dad, an Indiana native who had spent some time in New York City early in World War Two, said “This is Flatbush”: noticing some low-lying shrubbery in a planter box on the median, I thought I knew what he meant) to the Manhattan Bridge, where I was thrilled by the view of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and East River traffic.
The Manhattan Bridge was the last of four East River bridges–the others, in order of completion, are the Brooklyn (1883), the Williamsburg (1903), the Queensboro (now officially the “Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge”; also known as the 59th Street Bridge and as such immortalized by Simon & Garfunkel; March, 1909)–to be completed. The Manhattan Bridge was partially opened late in 1909, but not fully opened until 1912. It was designed by Leon Moisseiff, who was also involved in the design of the Golden gate Bridge and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia, but whose reputation was blotted by his having been the principal designer of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, a.k.a. “Galloping Gertie” (caution: the linked video may give you nightmares, though it may also warm the hearts of dog lovers).