Manhattan Bridge

Art & Culture | History

The Rodney Dangerfield of the East River

Manhattan Bridge Lower East Side

About Manhattan Bridge

 & why it made the Carpe City list

  • Begun in 1901 and finished in 1909, the Manhattan Bridge is the youngest of the East River spans, and the least beloved.
  • The bridge has always gotten a bad rap – situated right next to the Brooklyn Bridge, how can it possibly compete?
  • Before work on the bridge even began, New Yorkers were making cracks about its name, its size, its stability, you name it.
    • The New York Times famously decried “the meaninglessness and indistinction of its name” in 1905, explaining for those who they clearly judged as slow on the uptake, “All bridges across the East River are Manhattan Bridges.”
  • Despite the slights, the Manhattan Bridge was completed faster than any of the other bridges across the East River.
    • But it turns out that’s not much to celebrate since the bridge has been plagued with engineering problems for upwards of 100 years.
      • When the bridge first opened, its subway tracks didn’t connect to the rest of the system (these days, the B,D,N, and Q trains all cross it)
      • Also, due to some confusing engineering, the bridge actually drops 2-3 feet when two trains go over simultaneously.
  • But it used to be even worse. The Bridge started to tilt in 1917, and by the ‘80s, the bridge needed 30 years of long-term reconstruction that was only completed in 2007!
  • Let’s give the bridge a little respect:
    • It sports a gorgeous marble arch and colonnade designed in 1910 by the firm Carrere and Hastings (who also designed the central branch of the New York Public Library at 42nd St.)
      • The arch and colonnade were completed in 1915 and landmarked in 1975.
      • Carrere and Hastings looked to two famous European structures for their design: The Porte Saint-Denis arch in Paris and the Bernini Colonnade in Vatican City.
    • Speaking of gorgeous… the Manhattan Bridge also serves up some of the most impressive views of the skyline anywhere in New York.
      • If you walk across (via the Bowery on the Manhattan side, or the Flatbush Avenue Extension on the Brooklyn Side), or take the subway, you will see Manhattan and Brooklyn spread out below you to genuinely stunning effect.
    • Do it. Seriously. You won’t encounter the crowds you get on the Brooklyn Bridge, and you can see the Brooklyn Bridge from the Manhattan Bridge!!

Carpe City Trivia

Did you know that the Manhattan Bridge gives its name to two neighborhoods?

  • There’s “Two Bridges” in Manhattan (in Chinatown, between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges)
  • And “DUMBO” in Brooklyn (which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass)

Speaking of Under the Bridge, you can hear concerts under the Manhattan Bridge

  • In DUMBO, the area directly under the Manhattan Bridge is known as “The Archway.” It’s a space for public art and outdoor concerts!

By: Lucie Levine

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