Sunday, 3 July 2011

NY Must Do: Cross the Brooklyn Bridge

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge by foot
I've been really lucky this trip -- the weather has been absolutely gorgeous. While the temperature is in the early 30s, there wasn't the intense humidity as there is in Hong Kong, and there were occasional fresh breezes.

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the US's oldest suspension bridges
This afternoon we took the subway to the Brooklyn Bridge station and walked along the bridge. From the Manhattan side it's quite straight forward -- there's a guided path that takes pedestrians to the middle of the bridge. It then further sub divides for people in bicycles and pedestrians so you have to watch out for cyclists. Most of the time they ring their bells as warnings, but sometimes you can get distracted taking pictures of the views.

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. It was built in 1883 and spans the East River. There's an interesting plaque towards the Brooklyn side of the bridge. It is dedicated to the efforts of Emily Warren Roebling. It turns out the construction of the bridge lasted two generations of the Roebling family.

It was John Augustus Roebling, a German immigrant, who designed the bridge. But while he was doing surveys, his foot was crushed when a ferry pinned it against a piling. The crushed toes had to be amputated, but then he suffered further infections and before he died, he put his son Washington Roebling in charge of the project.

There are many photographic opportunities
However the younger Roebling also suffered a paralyzing injury due to decompression sickness soon after construction began in 1870. The condition was called caisson disease, due to building the bridge foundations or caissons where underwater workers worked in a compressed atmosphere and then immediately reentered normal atmospheric conditions.

The condition left Roebling unable to supervise the construction in person so his wife Emily Warren stepped up to the task, acting as a liaison between her husband and the engineers. She had studied complex mathematics and learned about bridge and cable construction. She did this for 11 years until the Brooklyn Bridge was finally completed in 1883. And to thank her for her efforts, she had the honour of being the first person to cross the bridge.

The Brooklyn Bridge offers great views of both sides, and the cables holding up the bridge also inspire artistic photographs. We enjoyed walking along the wooden path and luckily took most of our pictures on the Manhattan side, because the Brooklyn side was covered in plastic sheeting and was undergoing some kind of renovation.

A view of the bridge from DUMBO
On the other side we quickly took at look at DUMBO -- Downtown Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass that takes you down to the waterfront. People were out on the grass having picnics on blankets, children playing with water in the playground.

It's a nice quiet spot for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

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