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. https://vimeo.com/18642808 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. https://vimeo.com/130252478
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When the final phase of the High Line opened in September, Mayor de Blasio was not there to celebrate—neither was his Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, reported the New York Times. The mayor was off to Pittsburgh that day and Silver apparently had a scheduling conflict so deputies for both men were sent instead. But if the mayor would have made it to the opening, it would have been his first time on the High Line. Ever. "I am a fan of it,” the mayor reportedly said when asked about his absence at the park. “I think it’s done a lot of good for the city, but I haven’t visited.” This is surprising for two reasons. First, the obvious: he’s the mayor of New York and the High Line is one of the city’s most celebrated and beloved destinations. It's even featured in his administration’s promotional video for the city's bid to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention at the Barclays Center. And, second, if you’ve visited the High Line recently, you know the place is packed—it seems that every single human being on planet earth is up there alongside you. Last year, nearly five million people strolled across the old rail line. So why wasn't the mayor among the millions? It partly comes down to politics. As the Times explained: “[The High Line] is also associated with the themes Mr. de Blasio railed against in his campaign for mayor, when he denounced the 'almost colonial dynamic' between a gentrifying Manhattan and the city’s other boroughs. The park has attracted a string of luxury buildings to the Far West Side and is a cherished cause of wealthy Manhattanites in Mr. Bloomberg’s circles." [h/t Curbed.]
The opening of a new pier and beach at Michael Van Valkenburgh's Brooklyn Bridge Park this week marks the halfway point in the transformation of the celebrated 85-acre site. Local elected officials and community leaders—including Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver—appeared on the new Pier 2 to mark the occasion. They used words like “amazing” and “unbelievable" to describe the new six acres of space, but didn’t need much help selling the project. As they spoke on the overcast afternoon, their voices were drowned out by people playing basketball and bocce, and children running around a new playground. "We love all the boroughs," said Silver during his turn at the mic. "But, let me say, Brooklyn is really cool." This “active recreation” space came out of a community-driven planning process, and also includes handball courts, a field, a roller rink, and food vendors all under a protective shed. A few steps from all the action at Pier 2 is the new Pier 4 beach, a small waterfront space that will soon look out onto a natural habitat called Bird Island.