The Bridges of New York County
January 18, 2013

The Bridges of New York County

It’s long been a back-burner goal of ours to walk across all the bridges that connect the world to Manhattan, and vice versa. Bridges somehow inspire similar aspiration as mountains. Why do we want to walk over them? Because they are there. At this time of year sledding is typically the focus of our outdoor activity, but faced with yet another unseasonably warm weekend, we decided to make good use of it by walking over the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge

We had an appointment off Bryant Park on Saturday, and so we launched our journey there. William and I were on foot, Riley was on his scooter, and Halina was pushing her doll stroller loaded with dolls and more paraphernalia than they could possibly need for the afternoon. We started off due east along 42nd Street (more on that in a future post) to 2nd Avenue, and then walked north and watched a fascinating street unfold before us. 

We couldn’t remember ever having walked that stretch of 2nd Avenue, or much of 2nd Avenue at all, and the range of restaurants was just incredible—from Chinese to Turkish and seemingly everything in between.  This, no doubt, is thanks to the proximity of the United Nations complex, along the East River between 42nd and 49th streets. The area is also a great place to test your knowledge of foreign flags, as embassies and consulates are along the side streets. 

A Bridge Not Too Far

With so much to look at, we found ourselves at 59th Street before we knew it. Owing to its location, the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, as it is officially called, is also known as the 59th Street Bridge (as in the Simon and Garfunkel song), or simply the Queensboro Bridge since it was dedicated to Mayor Koch just over two years ago.  To access the pedestrian and bike pathway, however, you have to go to 60th Street and 1st Avenue, to a corkscrew onramp that starts off going west then doubles back on itself to take you east into Queens. 

This beautiful bridge is supported by two decorous cantilevers that are something to behold from below. It is the longest of the four bridges that span the East River, and the only one that is not a suspension bridge. Opened in 1909, the Queensboro Bridge was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark on its hundredth birthday.

The walkway runs along the north side of the bridge. It starts off with a steep incline, which levels off but remains steady until the middle of the 1.7-mile trek. Unlike the George Washington Bridge, which we covered in a previous post, there is a high chain-link fence along outer side of the walkway, further buttressing a thick metal fence.  For the first link of the journey, we were treated to the sight of the Roosevelt Island Aerial Tramway making its way between Manhattan and Roosevelt Island, which is in the middle of the East River (and covered in a previous post).  Nearing the Queens approach, the Q, N, and 7 subway lines come above ground—or go under—providing a unique and thrilling vista in transit engineering. 

An Increasingly Popular Span

We were surprised by the number of people on bikes and on foot that we passed, or who passed us, along the way. According to the city’s Department of Transportation website, a mere 800 people walked or rode over the bridge in 2001 (the latest available data) but our guess is that it’s become a much more popular route since then—and with good cause.  We’ve already outlined the charms along the Manhattan side of the bridge, and the Long Island City side in Queens is another great area to explore.  It is one of the fastest-growing areas in New York City and it has been thoughtfully designed with well-landscaped pedestrian and bike paths that lead to the river’s edge and deeper into the borough itself.

As you approach Queens, the pathway tapers off into an area of pubs, shops—and a lot of promise. The subway station is just a few blocks further east, between 26th and 27th streets. Altogether, the walk starting in Bryant Park took us 1.5 hours and if we didn’t have laundry, grocery shopping, and sundry errands to get to, we’d have done it back. 

What is your favorite bridge to walk, scoot, or ride over?



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