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The Ins and Outs of New York

When we drive to New York City, we usually slip into Holland Tunnel from New Jersey Turnpike and pop up near midtown Manhattan. When we arrive in a train, the familiar approach through the Penn Station tunnels doesn't deliver the same feeling of exhilaration. This week, after many years, we drove to Brooklyn and retraced our paths through the bridges of New York.

Goethals Bridge

Named after Major General George Washington Goethals, this was one of the first cantilevered structures built by the Port Authority of NY and NJ (PANYNJ). Goethals oversaw the construction of the Panama Canal and was one of the first engineers of PANYNJ. The original bridge was constructed in 1928 to span Arthur Krill, a body of water between Elizabeth, New Jersey and Staten Island, NY. Between 2013 and 2018, a new bridge was constructed adjacent to the old one and then the iconic one I have seen since age 12 was imploded shortly thereafter. If you have approached NYC from the NJ side, you could not have missed the original Goethals Bridge. Here is a trip down that memory lane (photo from the net).

And today, here is what the replacement looks like on a very grey day.

Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge

Also known as the Verrazzano Bridge, it covers the "Narrows" - a waterway - between Staten Island and Brooklyn. From its completion to 1981, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Commissioned in 1933, the central span of the bridge is 4,260 feet long. Through much historical tumult, the bridge did not open until 1964. It is a double-decker bridge and in the summer, because of expansion of the steel cables, the upper deck is 12 feet lower than in the winter!

It was built in a mere five years which totally boggles my mind considering that it is taking over twenty years to get the subway to extend to Washington Dulles airport in metro DC. Driving in NYC makes me wonder if we are more capable now than we were 50-100 years ago!

The Verrazzano bridge is named after the Italian navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano and had a starring role in Saturday Night Fever and Annie Hall. As we drove on the lower deck to Brooklyn and then on the upper deck back to Staten Island, I was awed by the scale of the bridge.

Brooklyn Bridge

This iconic bridge (picture below from the net) connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn over the East River is probably the most well-known bridge in NYC. If you are a Bollywood fan, you have seen this in many Hindi movies. It is 1,595 feet long, one of the longest roadway bridges in the country, and the world's first steel-wire suspension bridge. Construction began in 1869 and was completed in 1883. Not too far into the future, Tarun and I will walk across this bridge relishing the panoramic views of the cityscape.

Long before construction started, the Prussian-born engineer John Augustus Roebling wanted to make the commute easier between Manhattan and Brooklyn. It took infamous politician William “Boss” Tweed routing $65,000 in bribes to a city aldermen to secure funding for the bridge. A quintessential New York story, isn't it?

Sadly, Roebling died as a result of injury suffered during construction and did not live to see his effort come to fruition. After his passing, his son Washington Augustus Roebling took charge but soon, he too, was felled by disease. After that, Washington's wife, Emily Warren Roebling took full command of construction and delivered the bridge in a mark of early feminist achievement in engineering. Brooklyn Bridge is associated with numerous fascinating facts, such as, in 1884 twenty one elephants were made to walk across to convince people that the bridge was safe!

With it's 20M inhabitants, the metro New York City area is a thriving life-force like none other and whenever I am near these bridges, I cannot help wonder at the ingenuity of the folks who envisioned and created them.

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