After 45 years, New York City’s oldest standing bridge has been returned to its former glory. On Tuesday, city officials and local advocates cut the ribbon on the newly-revitalized, High Bridge, which stretches 1,450 feet across the Harlem River, from Upper Manhattan to the Bronx.
The Romanesque structure dates back to 1848 when it was part of the Old Croton Aqueduct that delivered fresh drinking water into a growing city that was struggling to produce its own. After decades of decay, followed by years of rehabilitation, High Bridge is open once again, offering an inter-borough connection for pedestrians and cyclists.
According to PBS, five of High Bridge’s masonry arches were removed in the 1920s and replaced with one steel arch to better accommodate passing ships. Later, in the late 1950s, when the Croton Aqueduct was decommissioned, High Bridge became a strictly pedestrian path. And it stayed that way until the 1970s, when it was closed to the public and left to deteriorate for decades.
After years of prodding from community groups, and a full-page New York Daily News editorial, Mayor Michael Bloomberg committed $50 million toward the restoration of the bridge. In 2006, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation announced that the project would, in fact, happen, but construction did not start until 2013.
On the day of the official groundbreaking, AN reported that, along with necessary structural work, the High Bridge project included “pedestrian safety measures like accessibility ramps, viewing platforms, and new lighting. An eight-foot-tall cable mesh fence to prevent jumpers and throwing trash will also line each side.” The project was supposed to be completed in 2014, but things obviously did not pan out that way.
But that’s all water under the bridge, if you will, because the High Bridge is back and open for business. “After years of dedicated effort, the High Bridge now offers a very real connection between neighbors, boroughs, and crucial resources,” New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said in a statement. “Starting today, the people of the Bronx and Manhattan—and indeed all New Yorkers—have will once again be able to walk, bike, or simply sit and enjoy this beautiful bridge.”
The total cost of the project was just shy of $62 million.