Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is a hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge in New York City. It connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, spanning the East River. The Brooklyn Bridge has a main span of 1,595.5 feet (486.3 m) and a height of 133 ft (40.5 m) above Mean High Water.[lower-alpha 2] It is one of the oldest roadway bridges in the United States and was the world's first steel-wire suspension bridge, as well as the first fixed crossing across the East River. The span was originally called the New York and Brooklyn Bridge and the East River Bridge, but was officially renamed the Brooklyn Bridge in 1915.

Brooklyn Bridge
Seen from Manhattan
Coordinates40.706°N 73.997°W / 40.706; -73.997
Carries6 lanes of roadway (cars only)
Elevated trains (until 1944)
Streetcars (until 1950)
Pedestrians and bicycles
CrossesEast River
LocaleNew York City (Civic Center, Manhattan Dumbo/Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn)
Maintained byNew York City Department of Transportation
ID number22400119[1]
DesignSuspension/Cable-stay Hybrid
Total length6,016 ft (1,833.7 m)[lower-alpha 1]
Width85 ft (25.9 m)[5][6][8]
Height272 ft (82.9 m) (towers)[3]
Longest span1,595.5 ft (486.3 m)[5][6][8]
Clearance below133 ft (40.5 m) above mean high water[2][lower-alpha 2]
DesignerJohn Augustus Roebling
OpenedMay 24, 1883 (1883-05-24)[9]
Daily traffic105,679 (2016)[10]
TollFree both ways
Brooklyn Bridge
Architectural styleneo-Gothic
NRHP reference #66000523
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 15, 1966[11]
Designated NHLJanuary 29, 1964[12]
Designated NYCLAugust 24, 1967[2]
Location within New York City

Proposals for a bridge connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn were first made in the early 19th century. These plans eventually led to the construction of the current span, designed by Washington Roebling. While construction started in 1870, numerous controversies and the novelty of the construction process caused the work to be prolonged over thirteen years, and the bridge opened on May 24, 1883. Over the years, the Brooklyn Bridge has undergone several reconfigurations, having carried horse-drawn vehicles and elevated railway lines until 1950. To alleviate increasing traffic flows, numerous bridges and tunnels were built to the north and south. Following gradual deterioration, the Brooklyn Bridge was renovated several times, with major renovations in the 1950s, 1980s, and 2010s.

The Brooklyn Bridge is the southernmost of four toll-free vehicular bridges connecting Manhattan Island and Long Island, with the Williamsburg, Manhattan, and Queensboro Bridges to the north. Only vehicular, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic traffic are permitted, with commercial vehicles being banned. A major tourist attraction since its opening, the Brooklyn Bridge has become an icon of New York City. Over the years, the bridge has been used as the location of various stunts and performances, as well as several crimes and attacks. The Brooklyn Bridge was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1972. The Brooklyn Bridge is also a New York City designated landmark.


Technically a suspension bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge actually uses a hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge design.[13] Its stone towers are neo-Gothic, with characteristic pointed arches. The paint scheme is "Brooklyn Bridge Tan" and "Silver", although it has been argued that it originally was entirely "Rawlins Red".[14]


In order to provide sufficient clearance for shipping in the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge incorporates long approach viaducts on either end to raise it from low ground on both shores.[7] Including approaches, the Brooklyn Bridge is a total of 6,016 feet (1,834 m) long[2][3][4] when measured between the curbs at Park Row in Manhattan and Sands Street in Brooklyn.[4] A separate measurement of 5,989 feet (1,825 m) is sometimes stated, the distance from the curb at Centre Street in Manhattan.[5][6][7]

Suspension span

The main span between the two suspension towers is 1,595.5 feet (486.3 m) long and 85 feet (26 m) wide.[5][6][8] It is alternately measured as having a maximum span height of 133 feet (41 m)[2] or 135 feet (41 m) above Mean High Water (MHW).[3] During construction, harbor pilot Joseph Henderson, regarded as one of the most experienced and trustworthy of New York's Sandy Hook Pilots, was called upon as an expert seaman to determine the height above MHW for the Brooklyn Bridge's main span.[15]

The side spans, between each suspension tower and each side's suspension anchorages, are each 930 feet (280 m) long.[5][6] At the time of construction, engineers had not yet discovered the aerodynamics of bridge construction, and bridge designs were not tested in wind tunnels. It was coincidental that the open truss structure supporting the deck is, by its nature, less subject to aerodynamic problems. This is because John A. Roebling designed the Brooklyn Bridge's truss system to be six to eight times as strong as he thought it needed to be.[16][17] However, due to the use of inferior-quality cable in the initial construction, the bridge was only four times as strong as necessary.[16][18]

The main span and side spans are supported by a structure containing six trusses running parallel to the roadway,[19] each of which is 33 feet (10 m) deep.[20][21] The trusses allow the Brooklyn Bridge to hold a total load of 18,700 short tons (16,700 long tons), a design consideration from when it originally carried heavier elevated trains.[7][22] These trusses are held up by suspender ropes, which hang downward from each of the four main cables. Crossbeams run between the trusses at the top, and diagonal and vertical stiffening beams run on the outside and inside of each roadway.[20][21]

An elevated pedestrian and cycling promenade runs in between the two roadways and 18 feet (5.5 m) above them.[23] It typically runs 4 feet (1.2 m) below the level of the crossbeams,[24] except at the areas surrounding each tower. Here, the promenade rises to just above the level of the crossbeams, connecting to a balcony that slightly overhangs each of the two roadways.[25] The path is generally 10 to 17 feet (3.0 to 5.2 m) wide.[26][24]


Each of the side spans is reached by an approach ramp. The 971-foot (296 m) approach ramp from the Brooklyn side is shorter than the 1,567-foot (478 m) approach ramp from the Manhattan side.[6] The approaches are supported by Renaissance-style arches made of masonry; the arch openings themselves were filled with brick walls, with small windows within.[2][27] The approach ramp contains nine arch or iron-girder bridges across side streets in Manhattan and Brooklyn.[28]


The Brooklyn Bridge is supported by four main cables, which descend from the tops of the suspension towers and help support the deck. Two are located to the outside of the bridge's roadways, while two are located in the median of the roadways.[7] Each main cable measures 15.75 inches (40.0 cm) in diameter and contains 5,282 parallel, galvanized-steel wires wrapped closely together in a cylindrical shape.[6][29][30] These wires are bundled in 19 individual strands, with 278 wires to a strand.[29] This was the first use of bundling in a suspension bridge, and took several months for workers to tie together.[31] From the main cables hang a series of 24-watt LED lighting fixtures, referred to as "necklace lights" due to their shape.[32]

In addition, 1,520 galvanized-steel-wire suspender cables hang downward from the main cables, and another 400 cable stays extend diagonally from the towers. These wires directly hold up the truss structure around the bridge deck.[16]


Each side of the bridge contains an anchorage for the main cables. The anchorages are trapezoidal limestone structures located slightly inland of the shore, measuring 129 by 119 feet (39 by 36 m) at the base and 117 by 104 feet (36 by 32 m) at the top.[5][6] Each anchorage weighs 60,000 short tons (54,000 long tons).[5] The Manhattan anchorage rests on a foundation of bedrock while the Brooklyn anchorage rests on clay.[30]

The anchorages both have four anchor plates, one for each of the main cables, which are located near ground level and parallel to the ground. The anchor plates measure 16 by 17.5 inches (410 by 440 mm), with a thickness of 2.5 inches (64 mm), and weigh 46,000 pounds (21,000 kg) each. Each anchor plate is connected to the respective main cable by two sets of nine eyebars, each of which is about 12.5 feet (3.8 m) long and up to 9 by 3 inches (229 by 76 mm) thick.[33][34] The chains of eyebars curve downward from the cables toward the anchor plates, and the eyebars vary in size depending on their position.[lower-alpha 3][28]

The anchorages also contain numerous passageways and compartments.[35] Starting in 1876,[36] New York City rented out the large vaults under the bridge's Manhattan anchorage in order to fund the bridge, and they were in constant use during the early 20th century.[35][37] The vaults were used to store wine, as they were consistently kept at 60 °F (16 °C) due to a lack of air circulation.[35] The Manhattan vault was called the "Blue Grotto" because of a shrine to the Virgin Mary next to an opening at the entrance.[37] The vaults were closed for public use in the late 1910s and 1920s during World War I and Prohibition but were reopened thereafter.[36][37] When New York magazine visited one of the cellars in 1978, it discovered on the wall a "fading inscription" reading: "Who loveth not wine, women and song, he remaineth a fool his whole life long."[38][36] Leakage in the vaults necessitated repairs during the late 1980s and early 1990s.[39] By the late 1990s the chambers were being used to store maintenance equipment.[35]


The bridge's two suspension towers are 278 feet (85 m) tall with a footprint of 140 by 59 feet (43 by 18 m) at the high water line.[6][3][7] They are built of limestone, granite, and Rosendale cement. The limestone was quarried at the Clark Quarry in Essex County, New York.[40] The granite blocks were quarried and shaped on Vinalhaven Island, Maine, under a contract with the Bodwell Granite Company, and delivered from Maine to New York by schooner.[41] The Manhattan tower contains 46,945 cubic yards (35,892 m3) of masonry, while the Brooklyn tower has 38,214 cubic yards (29,217 m3) of masonry.[5][6]

Each tower contains a pair of Gothic Revival pointed arches, through which the roadways run. The arch openings are 117 feet (36 m) tall and 33.75-foot-wide (10.29 m) wide.[34][42] The tops of the towers are located 159 feet (48 m) above the floor of each arch opening, while the floors of the openings are located an additional 119.25 feet (36.35 m) above mean water level, giving the towers a total height of 278.25 feet (84.81 m) above mean water.[6][42]

The towers rest on underwater caissons, giant upside-down boxes, made of southern yellow pine. Both caissons contain interior spaces that were used by construction workers. The Manhattan side's caisson is slightly larger, measuring 172 by 102 feet (52 by 31 m) and located 78.5 feet (23.9 m) below high water, while the Brooklyn side's caisson measures 168 by 102 feet (51 by 31 m) and is located 44.5 feet (13.6 m) below high water. The caissons were designed to hold 23 short tons per square foot (220 t/m2), even though the towers would only exert pressure of 5 short tons per square foot (49 t/m2) when built.[6][43] The Brooklyn side's caisson, which was built first, originally had a height of 9.5 feet (2.9 m) and a ceiling composed of five layers of timber, each layer 1 foot (0.30 m) tall. Ten more layers of timber were later added atop the ceiling, and the entire caisson was wrapped in tin and wood for further protection against flooding. The thickness of the caisson's sides was 8 feet (2.4 m) at both the bottom and the top. The caisson had six chambers: two each for dredging, supply shafts, and airlocks.[44][5] The Manhattan side's caisson was slightly different because it had to be installed at a lower depth. In addition to having seven additional layers of timber on top of the 15 layers in its Brooklyn counterpart, the Manhattan caisson had fifty 4-inch (10 cm)-diameter pipes for sand removal, a fireproof iron-boilerplate interior, and different airlocks and communication systems.[34][44][45][46]



Proposals for a bridge between the then-separate cities of Brooklyn and New York had been suggested as early as 1800.[47][31] At the time, the only travel between the two cities was by various ferry lines.[47][48] Engineers presented various designs, such as chain or link bridges, though these were never built due to the difficulties of constructing a high enough fixed-span bridge across the extremely busy East River.[47][31] There were also proposals for tunnels under the East River, but these were considered prohibitively expensive.[49] The current Brooklyn Bridge was conceived by German immigrant John Augustus Roebling in 1852. He had previously designed and constructed shorter suspension bridges, such as Roebling's Delaware Aqueduct in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, and the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge between Cincinnati, Ohio, and Covington, Kentucky.[50]

In February 1867, the New York State Senate passed a bill that allowed the construction of a suspension bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan.[51] Two months later, the New York and Brooklyn Bridge Company was incorporated with a board of directors (later converted to a board of trustees).[47][52][53] There were twenty trustees in total: eight each appointed by the mayors of New York and Brooklyn, as well as the mayors of each city and the auditor and comptroller of Brooklyn.[30] The company was tasked with constructing what was then known as the New York and Brooklyn Bridge.[47][52][53] The span was also alternatively referred to as just the "Brooklyn Bridge", a name originating from a January 25, 1867, letter to the editor sent to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.[54] The act of incorporation, which became law on April 16, 1867, authorized the cities of New York (now Manhattan) and Brooklyn to subscribe to $5 million in capital stock, which would fund the bridge's construction.[49]

Roebling was subsequently named the main engineer of the work, and by September 1867, had presented a master plan.[47][55][56] According to the plan, the bridge would be longer and taller than any suspension bridge previously built.[7] It would incorporate roadways and elevated rail tracks, whose tolls and fares would provide the means to pay for the bridge's construction, and would also include a raised promenade that also served as a leisurely pathway.[57] The proposal received much acclaim in both cities, and residents predicted that the New York and Brooklyn Bridge's opening would have as much of an impact as the Suez Canal, the first transatlantic telegraph cable, or the First Transcontinental Railroad. By early 1869, however, some people started to negatively criticize the project, saying either that the bridge was too expensive, or that the construction process was too difficult.[58]

To allay concerns about the design of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, Roebling set up a "Bridge Party" in March 1869, where he invited engineers and members of U.S. Congress to see his other spans.[59] After the bridge party concluded that April, Roebling and several engineers conducted final surveys. During the process, it was found that the main span would have to be raised from 130 to 135 feet (40 to 41 m) above MHW, requiring several changes to the overall design.[60] In June 1869, while conducting these surveys, Roebling sustained a crush injury to his foot when a ferry pinned it against a piling.[61][62] After amputation of his crushed toes, he developed a tetanus infection that left him incapacitated and resulted in his death the following month. Washington Roebling, John Roebling's 32-year-old son, was then hired to fill his father's role.[63][64] When the younger Roebling was hired, Tammany Hall leader William M. Tweed also became involved in the bridge's construction because, as a major landowner in New York City, he had an interest in the project's completion.[65]



Construction of the Brooklyn Bridge began on January 2, 1870.[30] The first work entailed the construction of two caissons, upon which the suspension towers would be built. The Brooklyn side's caisson was built at the Webb & Bell shipyard in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and was launched into the river on March 19, 1870.[44][5] Compressed air was pumped into the caisson, and workers entered the space to dig the sediment, until the caisson sank to the bedrock. Once the caisson had reached the desired depth, it was to be filled in with vertical brick piers and concrete.[66][67] However, due to the unexpectedly high concentration of large boulders atop the riverbed, the Brooklyn caisson took several months to sink at the desired rate.[67][5] Furthermore, in December 1870, the timber roof of the Brooklyn caisson caught fire, delaying construction further.[68][69] The "Great Blowout", as the fire was called, delayed construction for several months, since the holes in the caisson had to be repaired.[70] On March 6, 1871, the repairs were finished and the caisson had reached its final depth of 44.5 feet (13.6 m); it was filled with concrete five days later.[70][5] Overall, about 264 individuals were estimated to have worked in the caisson every day, but because of high worker turnover, about 2,500 men in total were estimated to have worked in the caisson.[71] In spite of this, only a few workers were paralyzed. At its final depth, the caisson had an air pressure of 21 pounds per square inch (140 kPa).[72]

The Manhattan side's caisson was the next structure to be built, and to ensure that it would not catch fire like its counterpart had, the Manhattan caisson was lined with fireproof plate iron.[46] It was launched from Webb & Bell's shipyard on May 11, 1871,[73][34] and maneuvered into place that September.[74][44] Due to the extreme underwater air pressure inside the much deeper Manhattan caisson, many workers became sick with decompression sickness during this work, despite the incorporation of airlocks.[75][76] This condition was unknown at the time and was first called "caisson disease" by the project physician, Andrew Smith.[77][78] Between January 25 and May 31, 1872, Smith treated 110 cases of decompression sickness, while three workers died from the disease.[34] When iron probes underneath the Manhattan caisson found the bedrock to be even deeper than expected, Washington Roebling halted construction due to the increased risk of decompression sickness.[34][79] After the Manhattan caisson reached a depth of 78.5 feet (23.9 m) with an air pressure of 35 pounds per square inch (240 kPa),[72] Washington deemed the sandy subsoil overlying the bedrock 30 feet (9.1 m) beneath to be sufficiently firm, and subsequently infilled the caisson with concrete in July 1872.[34][80][81]

Washington Roebling himself suffered a paralyzing injury as a result of caisson disease shortly after ground was broken for the Brooklyn tower foundation.[31][82] Washington's debilitating condition left him unable to physically supervise the construction firsthand, so he designed the caissons and other equipment from his apartment. His wife, Emily Warren Roebling, provided written communications between her husband and the engineers on site.[83] Emily understood higher mathematics, calculations of catenary curves, strengths of materials, bridge specifications, and intricacies of cable construction, and so she spent the next 11 years helping supervise the bridge's construction.[72][84][85][86]


After the caissons were completed, piers were constructed atop each caisson, upon which the masonry towers would be built. The construction of the towers themselves was a complex process that took four years. Since the masonry blocks were heavy, the builders transported the blocks to the base of the towers using a pulley system with a continuous 1.5-inch (3.8 cm)-diameter steel wire rope, operated by steam engines at ground level. The blocks were then carried upward via a timber track alongside each tower, then maneuvered into the proper position using a derrick atop the towers.[34][87] The blocks sometimes vibrated the ropes due to their heaviness, but only once did a block actually fall down.[87]

The suspension towers started construction in mid-1872, and by the time work was halted for the winter in late 1872, parts of each tower had already been constructed.[83] By mid-1873, there was substantial progress on the towers' construction. The Brooklyn side's tower had reached a height of 164 feet (50 m) above mean high water, while the Manhattan side's tower had reached 88 feet (27 m) above MHW.[88][89] The arches of the Brooklyn tower were completed by August 1874.[90] The tower as a whole was substantially finished by December 1874 with the erection of saddle plates for the main cables at the top of the tower. However, the ornamentation on the Brooklyn tower could not be completed until the Manhattan tower was finished.[91] The last stone on the Brooklyn tower was raised in June 1875 and the Manhattan tower was completed in July 1876.[92] The saddle plates atop both towers were also raised in July 1876.[93] The work was dangerous: by 1876, three workers had died by falling from the towers, while nine other workers had been killed in other accidents.[94]

While the towers were being constructed, in 1875, the project had depleted its original $5 million budget. Two bridge commissioners, one each from Brooklyn and Manhattan, petitioned New York state lawmakers to allot another $8 million for construction. Ultimately, the legislators passed a law authorizing the allotment, under the condition that the cities would buy the stock of Brooklyn Bridge's private stockholders.[95]

Work proceeded concurrently on the anchorages on each side.[96] The Brooklyn anchorage broke ground in January 1873[97][28] and was subsequently substantially completed in August 1875.[98][28] The Manhattan anchorage was built in less time, having started in May 1875, it was mostly completed in July 1876.[99][100] The anchorages could not be fully completed until the main cables were spun, at which point another six feet would be added to the height of each 80-foot anchorage.[101]


The first temporary wire was stretched between the towers on August 15, 1876,[93][102][103] using chrome steel provided by the Chrome Steel Company of Brooklyn.[93][103] The wire was then stretched back across the river, and the two ends were spliced to form a "traveler", a lengthy loop of wire connecting the towers, which was driven by a 30 horsepower (22 kW) steam hoisting engine at ground level.[104] The wire would be one of two that would be used to create a temporary footbridge for workers while cable spinning was ongoing.[105] The next step was to send an engineer across the already-completed traveler wire in a "boatswain's chair" slung from the wire, to ensure that the wire was safe enough. The bridge's master mechanic, E.F. Farrington, was selected for this task, and an estimated crowd of 10,000 people on both shores watched him cross.[106][107] A second traveler wire was then stretched across the span, a task that was completed by August 30.[108][105] The temporary footbridge, located some 60 feet (18 m) above the elevation of the future deck, was completed in February 1877.[109]

Under construction, c.1872 – c.1887
"From Tower to Tower—the suspension bridge over the East River—view from the Brooklyn Tower" (1877)

By December 1876, a steel contract for the permanent cables still had not been awarded.[110] There was disagreement over whether the bridge's cables should use the as-yet-untested Bessemer steel or the well-proven crucible steel.[16][111] Until a permanent contract was awarded, the builders ordered 30 short tons (27 long tons) of wire in the interim, 10 tons each from three companies, including Washington Roebling's own steel mill in Brooklyn.[112] In the end, it was decided to use 8 mm Birmingham gauge crucible steel, and a request for bids was distributed, to which eight companies responded.[110] In January 1877, a contract for crucible steel was awarded to J. Lloyd Haigh,[16][113][114] whom Roebling distrusted but who was associated with bridge trustee Abram Hewitt.[18][115]

The spinning of the wires required the manufacture of large coils of wire, which were galvanized but not oiled when they left the factory. The coils were delivered to a yard near the Brooklyn anchorage where they were dipped in linseed oil, hoisted to the top of the anchorage, dried out and spliced into a single wire, and finally coated with red zinc for further galvanizing.[116][117] There were thirty-two drums at the anchorage yard, eight for each of the four main cables, of which each drum had a capacity of 60,000 feet (18,000 m) of wire.[118] The first experimental wire for the main cables was stretched between the towers on May 29, 1877, and spinning began two weeks later.[116] All four main cables were being strung by that July. During that time, the temporary footbridge was unofficially opened to the general public, who could receive visitor's passes; by August 1877 several thousand visitors from around the world had used the footbridge.[119] The visitor passes ceased that September after a visitor had an epileptic seizure and nearly fell off.[119][120]

As the wires were being spun, work also commenced on the demolition of buildings on either side of the river for the Brooklyn Bridge's approaches; this work was mostly complete by September 1877.[101] The following month, initial contracts were awarded for the suspender wires, which would hang downward from the main cables and support the deck.[120][121] By May 1878, the main cables were more than two-thirds complete.[122] However, the following month, one of the wires slipped, killing two people and injuring three others.[123][124][125] A subsequent investigation discovered that J. Lloyd Haigh had substituted inferior quality wire in the cables. Of eighty rings of wire that were tested, only five met standards, and it was estimated that Haigh had earned $300,000 from the deception.[126] At this point, it was too late to replace the cables that had already been constructed. Roebling determined that the poorer wire would leave the bridge only four times as strong as necessary, rather than six to eight times as strong, so the inferior-quality wire was allowed to remain and 150 extra cables were added.[16][126] The contract for the remaining wire was awarded to the John A. Roebling's Sons company, and by October 5, 1878, the last of the main cables' wires went over the river.[127]

Not everyone supported the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, and there was substantial opposition from shipbuilders and merchants located upstream, who argued that the bridge would not provide sufficient clearance underneath for ships.[128] In May 1876, these groups, led by Abraham Miller, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against the cities of New York and Brooklyn.[128][129] The Supreme Court decided in 1883 that the Brooklyn Bridge was a lawful structure.[130]

Nearing completion

After the suspender wires had been placed, workers began erecting steel crossbeams to support the roadway, as part of the bridge's overall superstructure.[16] Construction started on the superstructure in March 1879,[21] but, as with the cables, the trustees initially disagreed on whether the steel superstructure should be made of Bessemer or crucible steel.[131] That July, the trustees decided to award a contract for 500 short tons (450 long tons) of Bessemer steel[132] to the Edgemoor (or Edge Moor) Iron Works, based in Philadelphia, to be delivered by 1880.[132][133][134] The trustees later passed another resolution for another 500 short tons of Bessemer steel.[132] However, by February 1880 the steel deliveries had not started.[135] That October, the bridge trustees questioned Edgemoor's president about the delay in steel deliveries.[136] Despite Edgemoor's assurances that the contract would be fulfilled, the deliveries still had not been completed by November 1881.[137] Brooklyn mayor Seth Low, who became part of the board of trustees in 1882, became the chairman of a committee tasked to investigate Edgemoor's failure to fulfill the contract. When questioned, Edgemoor's president stated that the delays were the fault of another contractor, the Cambria Iron Company, who was manufacturing the eyebars for the bridge trusses; at that point, the contract was supposed to be complete by October 1882.[138][139]

Further complicating the situation, Washington Roebling had failed to appear at the trustees' meeting in June 1882, since he had gone to Newport, Rhode Island.[138] After the news media discovered this, most of the newspapers called for Roebling to be fired as chief engineer, with the exception of the Daily State Gazette of Trenton, New Jersey, and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.[140] Some of the more longstanding trustees, including Henry C. Murphy, James S. T. Stranahan, and William C. Kingsley, were willing to vouch for Roebling, since construction progress on the Brooklyn Bridge was still ongoing. However, Roebling's behavior was considered suspect among the younger trustees who had joined the board more recently.[140]

Construction on the bridge itself was noted in formal reports that Murphy presented each month to the mayors of New York and Brooklyn. For example, Murphy's report in August 1882 noted that the month's progress included 114 intermediate cords erected within a week, as well as 72 diagonal stays, 60 posts, and numerous floor beams, bridging trusses, and stay bars.[140][141] By early 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was considered mostly completed and was projected to open that June.[142] Contracts for bridge lighting were awarded by February 1883,[142] and a toll scheme was approved that March.[143]


The New York and Brooklyn Bridge was opened for use on May 24, 1883. Thousands of people attended the opening ceremony, and many ships were present in the East River for the occasion.[144] Officially, Emily Warren Roebling was the first to cross the bridge.[145] The bridge opening was also attended by U.S. president Chester A. Arthur and New York mayor Franklin Edson, who crossed the bridge and shook hands with Brooklyn mayor Seth Low at the Brooklyn end. Though Washington Roebling was unable to attend the ceremony (and rarely visited the site again), he held a celebratory banquet at his house on the day of the bridge opening. Further festivity included the performance of a band, gunfire from ships, and a fireworks display.[146][147] On that first day, a total of 1,800 vehicles and 150,300 people crossed the span.[145] Less than a week after the Brooklyn Bridge opened, ferry crews reported a sharp drop in patronage, while the bridge's toll operators were processing over a hundred people a minute.[148] However, cross-river ferries continued to operate until 1942.[149]

The bridge had cost US$15.5 million in 1883 dollars (about US$403,339,000 in 2018[150]) to build, of which Brooklyn paid two thirds.[145][30] The bonds to fund the construction would not be paid off until 1956.[151] An estimated 27 men died during its construction.[145][30] Since the New York and Brooklyn Bridge was the only bridge across the East River at that time, it was also called the East River Bridge.[152] Another popular nickname was the Brooklyn Bridge, because of the economic benefits the new crossing provided to the city of Brooklyn.[153] Until the construction of the nearby Williamsburg Bridge in 1903, the New York and Brooklyn Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world, 1 12 times longer than any previously built.[154]

At the time of opening, the Brooklyn Bridge was not yet complete; the proposed public transit across the bridge was still being tested, while the Brooklyn approach was being completed.[155] On May 30, 1883, six days after the opening, a woman falling down a stairway at the Brooklyn approach caused a stampede, which resulted in at least twelve people being crushed and killed.[156][149] In subsequent lawsuits, the Brooklyn Bridge Company was acquitted of negligence.[149] However, the company did install emergency phone boxes and additional railings,[157] and the trustees approved a fireproofing plan for the bridge.[158] Public transit service started with the opening of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge Railway, a cable car service, on September 25, 1883.[149][159][160] On May 17, 1884, one of circus master P. T. Barnum's most famous attractions, the elephant Jumbo, led a parade of 21 elephants over the Brooklyn Bridge. This helped to lessen doubts about the bridge's stability while also promoting Barnum's circus.[8][161][162][163]

Late 19th through early 20th centuries

Patronage across the Brooklyn Bridge increased in the years after it opened. A million people paid to cross in the six months after it opened. The bridge carried 8.5 million people in 1884, its first full year of operation; this number doubled to 17 million in 1885 and again to 34 million in 1889.[30] Many of these people were cable car passengers.[164] Additionally, about 4.5 million pedestrians a year were crossing the bridge for free by 1892.[165] Trolley tracks were added in the center lanes of both roadways in 1898, allowing trolleys to use the bridge as well. That year, the formerly separate city of Brooklyn was unified with New York City, and the Brooklyn Bridge fell under city control.[166][167] Concerns about the Brooklyn Bridge's safety were raised during the turn of the century. In 1898, traffic backups due to a dead horse caused one of the truss cords to buckle.[168] There were more significant worries after twelve suspender cables snapped in 1901,[8][169][170] though a thorough investigation found no other defects.[171] After the 1901 incident, five inspectors were hired to examine the bridge each day, a service that cost $250,000 a year.[172] The Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company, which operated routes across the Brooklyn Bridge, issued a notice in 1905 saying that the bridge had reached its transit capacity.[8]

By 1890, due to the popularity of the Brooklyn Bridge, there were proposals to construct other bridges across the East River between Manhattan and Long Island.[173] Although a second deck for the Brooklyn Bridge was proposed, it was thought to be infeasible because doing so would overload the bridge's structural capacity.[168] The first new bridge across the East River, the Williamsburg Bridge, opened upstream in 1903 and connected Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with the Lower East Side of Manhattan.[174] This was followed by the Queensboro Bridge between Queens and Manhattan in March 1909,[175] and the Manhattan Bridge between Brooklyn and Manhattan in December 1909.[176] Several subway, railroad, and road tunnels were also constructed, which helped to accelerate the development of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.[177][48]

Though tolls were instituted for carriages and cable-car customers since the bridge's opening, pedestrians were originally spared from the tolls.[143] However, by the first decade of the 20th century, pedestrians were paying tolls as well.[178] In July 1911, tolls on all four East River bridges were abolished as part of a populist policy initiative headed by New York City mayor William Jay Gaynor.[179][180] The city government passed a bill to officially name the structure the "Brooklyn Bridge" in January 1915.[153] Ostensibly in an attempt to reduce traffic on nearby city streets, Grover Whalen, the commissioner of Plant and Structures, banned motor vehicles from the Brooklyn Bridge in 1922.[181] The real reason for the ban was an incident the same year where two cables slipped due to high traffic loads.[8][182] Both Whalen and Roebling called for the renovation of the Brooklyn Bridge and the construction of a parallel bridge, though the parallel bridge was never built.[8][182][183]

Mid- to late 20th century


The first major upgrade to the Brooklyn Bridge commenced in 1948, when a contract for redesigning the bridge was awarded to David B. Steinman.[184][185] The upgrade was expected to nearly double the capacity of the bridge's roadways to 6,000 cars per hour,[184] at a projected cost of $7 million.[186] The renovation included the demolition of both the elevated and the trolley tracks on the roadways, the removal of trusses separating the inner elevated tracks from the existing vehicle lanes, and the widening of each roadway from two to three lanes,[186][187] as well as the construction of a new steel-and-concrete floor.[188] In addition, new ramps were added to Adams Street, Cadman Plaza, and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE) on the Brooklyn side, and to Park Row on the Manhattan side.[189] The trolley tracks closed in March 1950 to allow for the widening work to occur.[190][191] During the construction project, one roadway at a time was closed, allowing reduced traffic flows to cross the bridge in one direction only.[192] The widened south roadway was completed in May 1951,[193] followed by the north roadway in October 1953.[194] The restoration was finished in May 1954 with the completion of the reconstructed elevated promenade.[195][192]

While the rebuilding of the span was ongoing, a fallout shelter was constructed beneath the Manhattan approach in anticipation of the Cold War. The abandoned space in one of the masonry arches was stocked with emergency survival supplies for a potential nuclear attack by the Soviet Union; these supplies remained in place half a century later.[196] In addition, defensive barriers were added to the bridge as a safeguard against sabotage.[197]

Simultaneous with the rebuilding of the Brooklyn Bridge, a double-decked viaduct for the BQE was being built through an existing steel overpass of the bridge's Brooklyn approach ramp.[198] The segment of the BQE from Brooklyn Bridge south to Atlantic Avenue opened in June 1954,[199] but the direct ramp from the northbound BQE to the Manhattan-bound Brooklyn Bridge did not open until 1959.[200] The city also widened the Adams Street approach in Brooklyn, between the bridge and Fulton Street, from 60 to 160 feet (18 to 49 m) between 1954 and 1955.[201][202] Subsequently, Boerum Place from Fulton Street south to Atlantic Avenue was also widened.[203] This required the demolition of the old Kings County courthouse.[204] The towers were cleaned in 1958[205] and the Brooklyn anchorage was repaired the next year.[206]

On the Manhattan side, the city approved a controversial rebuilding of the Manhattan entrance plaza in 1953. The project, which would add a grade-separated junction over Park Row, was hotly contested because it would require the demolition of 21 structures, including the old New York World Building.[207] The reconstruction also necessitated the relocation of 410 families on Park Row.[208] In December 1956, the city started a two-year renovation of the plaza, requiring the closure of one roadway at a time, similar to during the rebuilding of the bridge itself.[209] Work on redeveloping the area around the Manhattan approach started in the mid-1960s,[210] and, at the same time, plans were announced for direct ramps to the FDR Drive elevated highway to alleviate congestion at the approach.[211] The ramp from the FDR Drive to the Brooklyn Bridge was opened in 1968,[212] followed by the ramp from the bridge to the FDR Drive the next year.[213] A single ramp from the Manhattan-bound Brooklyn Bridge to northbound Park Row was constructed in 1970.[214] A repainting of the bridge was announced two years later in advance of its 90th anniversary.[215]

Deterioration and late-20th century repair

The Brooklyn Bridge gradually deteriorated due to age and neglect. While the bridge had 200 full-time dedicated maintenance workers before World War II, that number dropped to 5 by the late 20th century, and the city as a whole only had 160 bridge maintenance workers.[216] In 1974, heavy vehicles such as vans and buses were banned from the bridge to prevent further erosion of the concrete roadway.[217] A New York Times report four years later described that the cables were visibly fraying and the pedestrian promenade had holes in it.[218] The city started planning to replace all of the Brooklyn Bridge's cables at a cost of $115 million, as part of a larger project to renovate all four toll-free East River spans.[219] By 1980, the Brooklyn Bridge was in such dire condition that it faced imminent closure. In some places, half of the strands in the cables were broken.[220]

In June 1981, two of the diagonal stay cables snapped, seriously injuring a pedestrian[221][222] who later died.[18] The anchorages were subsequently found to have developed rust,[222] and an emergency cable repair was necessitated less than a month later after another cable developed slack.[223] Following the incident, the city accelerated the timetable of its proposed cable replacement,[219] and it commenced a $153 million rehabilitation of the Brooklyn Bridge in advance of the 100th anniversary. As part of the project, the Brooklyn Bridge's original suspender cables installed by J. Lloyd Haigh were replaced by Bethlehem Steel in 1986, marking the cables' first replacement since construction.[18] In addition, the staircase at Washington Street in Brooklyn was renovated,[224] the stairs from Tillary and Adams Streets were replaced with a ramp, and the short flights of steps from the promenade to each tower's balcony were removed.[225] In a smaller project, the bridge was floodlit at night starting in 1982 to highlight its architectural features.[226]

Additional problems persisted, and in 1993, high levels of lead were discovered near the bridge's towers.[227] Further emergency repairs were undertaken in mid-1999 after small concrete shards began falling from the Brooklyn Bridge into the East River. The concrete deck had been installed during the 1950s renovations and had a lifespan of about 60 years.[228][229] The Park Row exit from the bridge's westbound lanes was closed as a safety measure after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the nearby World Trade Center. That section of Park Row had been closed off since it ran right underneath 1 Police Plaza, the headquarters of the New York City Police Department.[230] As a cost-saving measure, in early 2003, the NYCDOT turned off the bridge's "necklace lights" at night.[231] The necklace lights were turned back on later that year, following private donations.[232]

21st century

After the 2007 collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, public attention focused on the condition of bridges across the U.S. The New York Times reported that the Brooklyn Bridge approach ramps had received a rating of "poor" during its inspection in 2007.[233] However, a NYC Department of Transportation spokesman said that the poor rating did not indicate a dangerous state but rather implied it required renovation.[234] A US$508 million project (equivalent to US$584 million in 2018)[150] to renovate the approaches began in 2010, with the full bridge renovation beginning in early 2011. The project was originally scheduled to run until 2014, but did not actually finish until April 2015.[235][236] Work included widening two approach ramps from one to two lanes by re-striping a new prefabricated ramp; raising clearance over the eastbound BQE at York Street; seismic retrofitting; replacement of rusted railings and safety barriers; and road deck resurfacing.[237] The work necessitated detours for four years.[238]

In August 2016, after the renovation of the bridge deck had been completed, the New York City Department of Transportation announced that it would conduct a seven-month, $370,000 study to verify if the bridge could support a heavier upper deck that consisted of an expanded bicycle and pedestrian path. As of 2016, about 10,000 pedestrians and 3,500 bikers use the pathway on an average weekday.[239] Work on the pedestrian entrance on the Brooklyn side was underway by 2017.[240]

In July 2018, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved a further renovation of the Brooklyn Bridge's suspension towers and approach ramps, with construction scheduled to begin in mid-2019.[241][242] That December, the federal government gave the city $25 million in funding. This would pay for a $337 million rehabilitation of the bridge approaches and the suspension towers.[243]


Vehicular traffic

Horse-drawn carriages have been allowed to use the Brooklyn Bridge's roadways since its opening. Originally, each of the two roadways carried two lanes of a different direction of traffic.[6] The lanes were relatively narrow at only 8 feet (2.4 m) wide.[195] In 1922, motor vehicles were banned from the Brooklyn Bridge, while horse-drawn carriages were restricted from the Manhattan Bridge. Thereafter, the only vehicles allowed on the Brooklyn Bridge were horse-drawn.[181]

Since 1950, the main roadway has carried six lanes of automobile traffic. Because of the roadway's height (11 ft (3.4 m) posted) and weight (6,000 lb (2,700 kg) posted) restrictions, commercial vehicles and buses are prohibited from using the Brooklyn Bridge.[244] Due to the weight restrictions, passenger vehicles such as pickup trucks and SUVs are also legally not allowed to use the bridge, though this is not often enforced in practice.[245]

On the Brooklyn side, vehicles can enter the bridge from Tillary/Adams Streets to the south, Sands/Pearl Streets to the west, and exit 28B of the eastbound Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. In Manhattan, cars can enter from both the northbound and southbound FDR Drive, as well as Park Row to the west, Chambers/Centre Streets to the north, and Pearl Street to the south. However, the exit from the bridge to northbound Park Row is closed to traffic.[246]

Exits and entrances

Vehicular access to the bridge is provided by a complex series of ramps on both the Manhattan and Brooklyn sides of the bridge. There are two pedestrian entrances on either side.[246]

BrooklynBrooklyn Heights0.00.0Tillary Street / Adams Street southAt-grade intersection; no bridge access from eastbound Tillary Street; pedestrian and bicycle path
0.30.48Sands StreetNorthbound entrance only; pedestrian staircase
0.40.64 I-278 (Brooklyn–Queens Expressway) / Cadman Plaza WestSouthbound exit and northbound entrance; exit 28B on I-278
East River0.7–
Suspension span
ManhattanFinancial District1.21.9Park Row northNorthbound exit only; closed since September 11, 2001[230]
1.32.1 FDR Drive / Pearl StreetNorthbound exit and southbound entrance; exit 2 on FDR Drive
1.42.3Park Row southNorthbound exit and southbound entrance; pedestrian staircase
1.52.4 Chambers Street / Centre Street to NY 9A / Church StreetPedestrian and bicycle path
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

Rail traffic

Formerly, rail traffic operated on the Brooklyn Bridge as well. Cable cars and elevateds used the bridge until 1944, while trolleys ran until 1950.[190][191]

Cable cars and elevateds

The New York and Brooklyn Bridge Railway, a cable car service, began operating on September 25, 1883; it ran on the inner lanes of the bridge, between terminals at the Manhattan and Brooklyn ends.[159][160] Since Washington Roebling believed that steam trains would bear excessive loads upon the structure of the Brooklyn Bridge, the cable car line was designed as a steam/cable-hauled hybrid. They were powered from a generating station under the Brooklyn approach. The cable cars could not only regulate their speed on the 3 34% upward and downward approaches, but also maintain a constant interval between each other. There were 24 cable cars in total.[247]

Initially, the service ran with single-car trains, but patronage soon grew so much that by October 1883, two-car trains were in use. The line carried three million people in the first six months, nine million in 1884, and nearly 20 million in 1885 following the opening of the Brooklyn Union Elevated Railroad. Accordingly, the track layout was rearranged and more trains were ordered.[149][248] At the same time, there were highly controversial plans to extend the elevated railroads onto the Brooklyn Bridge, under the pretext of extending the bridge itself.[249] After disputes, the trustees agreed to build two elevated routes to the bridge on the Brooklyn side.[250] Patronage continued to increase, and in 1888, the tracks were lengthened and even more cars were constructed to allow for four-car trains of cable cars.[164] Electric wires for the trolleys were added by 1895, potentially allowing for the future decommissioning of the steam/cable system.[251] The terminals were rebuilt once more in July 1895, and, following the implementation of new electric cars in late 1896, the steam engines were dismantled and sold.[252]

Following unification of the cities of New York and Brooklyn in 1898, the New York and Brooklyn Bridge Railway ceased to be a separate entity that June, and the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT) assumed control of the line. The BRT started running through-services of elevated trains, which ran from Park Row Terminal in Manhattan to points in Brooklyn via the Sands Street station on the Brooklyn side. Before reaching Sands Street (at Tillary Street for Fulton Street Line trains, and at Bridge Street for Fifth Avenue Line and Myrtle Avenue Line trains), elevated trains bound for Manhattan were uncoupled from their steam locomotives. The elevated trains were then coupled to the cable cars, which would pull the passenger carriages across the bridge.[253]

View from the pedestrian walkway; the bridge's cable arrangement forms a weblike pattern
Street map of lower Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn dated 1885, showing street approaches to the bridge after its completion

The BRT did not run any through services of elevated trains from 1899 to 1901. Due to increased patronage following the opening of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT)'s first subway line, the Park Row station was rebuilt in 1906.[254] At one point, there were plans for Brooklyn Bridge elevated trains to run underground to the BRT's proposed Chambers Street station in Manhattan,[255] though work on the connection was never completed.[256][257] The overpass across William Street was closed in 1913 to make way for the proposed connection, but reopened in 1929 after it became clear that the connection would not be built.[258]

After the IRT's Joralemon Street Tunnel and the Williamsburg Bridge tracks opened in 1908, the Brooklyn Bridge no longer held a monopoly on rail service between Manhattan and Brooklyn, and cable service ceased.[257] New subway lines from the IRT and from the BRT's successor Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT), built in the 1910s and 1920s, posed significant competition to the Brooklyn Bridge rail services. With the opening of the Independent Subway System in 1932, and the subsequent unification of all three companies into a single entity in 1940, the elevated services started to decline, and the Park Row and Sands Street stations were greatly reduced in size. The Fifth Avenue and Fulton Street services across the Brooklyn Bridge were discontinued in 1940 and 1941 respectively, and the elevated tracks were abandoned permanently with the withdrawal of Myrtle Avenue services in 1944.[190]


A plan for trolley service across the Brooklyn Bridge was presented in 1895,[259] and the Brooklyn Bridge trustees agreed two years later to a plan where trolleys could run across the bridge under ten-year contracts.[260] Trolley service, which began in 1898, ran on what are now the two middle lanes of each roadway (shared with other traffic)[166][167] When cable service was withdrawn in 1908, the trolley tracks on the Brooklyn side were rebuilt to alleviate congestion.[257] Trolley service on the middle lanes continued until the elevated lines stopped using the bridge in 1944, when they moved to the protected center tracks. On March 5, 1950, the streetcars also stopped running, and the bridge was redesigned for automobile traffic exclusively.[190][191]


The Brooklyn Bridge has an elevated promenade open to pedestrians and cyclists in the center of the bridge, located 18 feet (5.5 m) above the automobile lanes.[23] The promenade is usually located 4 feet (1.2 m) below the height of the girders, except at the approach ramps leading to each tower's balcony.[24] The path is generally 10 to 17 feet (3.0 to 5.2 m) wide,[26][24] though this is constrained by obstacles such as protruding cables, benches, and stairways, which create "pinch points" at certain locations.[261] The path narrows to 10 feet at the locations where the main cables descend to the level of the promenade. Further exacerbating the situation, these "pinch points" are some of the most popular places to take pictures.[262] As a result, in 2016, the NYCDOT revealed plans to double the promenade's width.[26][239]

A center line was painted to separate cyclists from pedestrians in 1971, creating one of the city's first dedicated bike lanes.[263] Initially, the northern side of the promenade was used by pedestrians and the southern side by cyclists. In 2000, these were swapped, with cyclists taking the northern side and pedestrians taking the southern side.[264] As of 2016, more than 4,000 pedestrians and 3,100 cyclists cross the Brooklyn Bridge each day.[265]

Pedestrian and bicycle access to the bridge from the Brooklyn side is from either the median of Adams Street at its intersection with Tillary Street or a staircase near Prospect Street between Cadman Plaza East and West. In Manhattan, the pedestrian walkway is accessible from crosswalks at the intersection of the bridge and Centre Street, or through a staircase leading to Park Row.[246][266]

Emergency use

While the bridge has always permitted the passage of pedestrians, the promenade facilitates movement when other means of crossing the East River have become unavailable. During transit strikes by the Transport Workers Union in 1980 and 2005, people commuting to work used the bridge; they were joined by Mayors Ed Koch and Michael Bloomberg, who crossed as a gesture to the affected public.[267][268] Pedestrians also walked across the bridge as an alternative to suspended subway services following the 1965,[269] 1977,[270] and 2003 blackouts,[271] and after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.[272]

During the 2003 blackouts, many crossing the bridge reported a swaying motion.[273] The higher than usual pedestrian load caused this swaying, which was amplified by the tendency of pedestrians to synchronize their footfalls with a sway.[274] Several engineers expressed concern about how this would affect the bridge, although others noted that the bridge did withstand the event and that the redundancies in its design—the inclusion of the three support systems (suspension system, diagonal stay system, and stiffening truss)—make it "probably the best secured bridge against such movements going out of control".[273] In designing the bridge, John Roebling had stated that the bridge would sag but not fall, even if one of these structural systems were to fail altogether.[57]

Panorama of Brooklyn Bridge, with the Manhattan Bridge behind it, and the Williamsburg Bridge visible farther in the background

Notable events


There have been several notable jumpers from the Brooklyn Bridge. The first person to jump from the bridge was Robert Emmet Odlum, brother of women's rights activist Charlotte Odlum Smith, on May 19, 1885.[275][276] He struck the water at an angle and died shortly thereafter from internal injuries.[277] Steve Brodie supposedly dropped from underneath the bridge in July 1886 and was briefly arrested for such, though there is some doubt about whether he actually did jump.[278][163] Larry Donovan made a slightly higher jump from the railing a month later and went on to an international bridge jumping career.[163] The first person to jump from the bridge with the intention of suicide was Francis McCarey in 1892.[163] A lesser known early jumper was James Duffy of County Cavan, Ireland, who on April 15, 1895, asked several men to watch him jump from the bridge. Duffy jumped and was not seen again.[279] Additionally, the cartoonist Otto Eppers jumped and survived in 1910, and was then tried and acquitted for attempted suicide.[280] The Brooklyn Bridge has since developed a reputation as a suicide bridge due to the number of jumpers who do so with the intention of killing themselves, though exact statistics are difficult to find.[281]

Other notable feats have taken place on or near the bridge. In 1919, Giorgio Pessi piloted what was then one of the world's largest airplanes, the Caproni Ca.5, under the bridge.[282] In 1993, bridge jumper Thierry Devaux illegally performed eight acrobatic bungee jumps above the East River close to the Brooklyn tower.[283][284]

Crimes and terrorism

On March 1, 1994, Lebanese-born Rashid Baz opened fire on a van carrying members of the Chabad-Lubavitch Orthodox Jewish Movement, striking 16-year-old student Ari Halberstam and three others traveling on the bridge.[285] Halberstam died five days later from his wounds, and Baz was later convicted of murder. Baz was apparently acting out of revenge for the Hebron massacre of Palestinian Muslims a few days prior to the incident.[286] After initially classifying the killing as one committed out of road rage, the Justice Department reclassified the case in 2000 as a terrorist attack.[287] The entrance ramp to the bridge on the Manhattan side was subsequently dedicated as the Ari Halberstam Memorial Ramp.[288][289]

Several potential attacks or disasters have also been stopped. In 1979, police disarmed a stick of dynamite placed under the Brooklyn approach,[290] and an artist in Manhattan was later arrested for the act.[291] In 2003, truck driver Iyman Faris was sentenced to about 20 years in prison for providing material support to Al-Qaeda, after an earlier plot to destroy the bridge by cutting through its support wires with blowtorches was thwarted.[292]

At 9:00 am on May 19, 1977, artist Jack Bashkow climbed one of the towers for Bridging, a "media sculpture" by the performance group Art Corporation of America Inc. Seven artists climbed the largest bridges connected to Manhattan "to replace violence and fear in mass media for one day". When each of the artists had reached the tops of the bridges, they ignited bright-yellow flares at the same moment, resulting in rush hour traffic disruption, media attention, and the arrest of the climbers, though the charges were later dropped. Called "the first social-sculpture to use mass-media as art” by conceptual artist Joseph Beuys,[293] the event was on the cover of the New York Post, received international attention, and received ABC Eyewitness News' 1977 Best News of the Year award.[294] John Halpern documented the incident in the film Bridging, 1977. Halpern attempted another "bridging" "social sculpture" in 1979, when he planted a radio receiver, gunpowder and fireworks in a bucket atop one of the towers.[295] The piece was later discovered by police, leading to his arrest for possessing a bomb.[296]

On July 22, 2014, it was found that the two American flags on the flagpoles atop each tower had been replaced by bleached-white American flags.[297][298] Initially, cannabis activism was suspected as a motive,[299][300][301] but on August 12, 2014, two Berlin artists claimed responsibility for hoisting the two white flags, having switched out the original flags with their replicas. The artists said that the flags were meant to celebrate "the beauty of public space" and the anniversary of the death of German-born John Roebling, and they denied that it was an "anti-American statement".[302][303][304]

Anniversary celebrations

The 50th-anniversary celebrations on May 24, 1933, were celebrated with a ceremony featuring an airplane show, ships, and fireworks,[305] as well as a banquet.[306]

The centennial celebrations on May 24, 1983, saw a cavalcade of cars crossing the bridge, led by President Ronald Reagan. A flotilla of ships visited the harbor, parades were held,[307][308] and a fireworks display by Grucci Fireworks was held that evening.[309][308] That year, the Brooklyn Museum exhibited a selection of the original drawings made for the bridge's construction, some by Washington Roebling.[310] Media coverage of the centennial was declared "the public relations triumph of 1983" by Inc.[311]

The 125th anniversary of the bridge's opening was celebrated by a five-day event on May 22–26, 2008, which included a live performance of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, a special lighting of the bridge's towers, and a fireworks display.[312] Other events included a film series, historical walking tours, information tents, a series of lectures and readings, a bicycle tour of Brooklyn, a miniature golf course featuring Brooklyn icons, and other musical and dance performances.[313] Just before the anniversary celebrations, artist Paul St George installed the Telectroscope, a video link on the Brooklyn side of the bridge that connected to a matching device on London's Tower Bridge.[314] A newly renovated pedestrian connection to Dumbo, Brooklyn, was also unveiled before the anniversary celebrations.[315]


At the time of construction, contemporaries marveled at what technology was capable of, and the bridge became a symbol of the era's optimism. John Perry Barlow wrote in the late 20th century of the "literal and genuinely religious leap of faith" embodied in the bridge's construction, saying that the "Brooklyn Bridge required of its builders faith in their ability to control technology".[316]

Historical designations and plaques

Brooklyn Bridge plaques
Dedication and renovation plaque, at Manhattan tower
New York City designated landmark plaque

The Brooklyn Bridge has been listed as a National Historic Landmark since January 29, 1964,[317][318][319] and was subsequently added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.[11] The bridge has also been a New York City designated landmark since August 24, 1967,[2] and was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1972.[320] In addition, it was placed on UNESCO's list of tentative World Heritage Sites in 2017.[321]

A bronze plaque is attached to the Manhattan anchorage, which was constructed on a piece of property occupied by the Samuel Osgood House, at 1 Cherry Street in Manhattan. Named after Samuel Osgood, a Massachusetts politician and lawyer, it was built in 1770 and served as the first U.S. presidential mansion.[322] The Osgood House was demolished in 1856.[323]

Another plaque on the Manhattan side of the pedestrian promenade, installed by the city in 1975, indicates the bridge's status as a city landmark.[324][325]


The Brooklyn Bridge has had an impact on idiomatic American English. For example, references to "selling the Brooklyn Bridge" abound in American culture, sometimes as examples of rural gullibility but more often in connection with an idea that strains credulity. George C. Parker and William McCloundy were two early 20th-century conmen who had successfully perpetrated this scam on unwitting tourists.[326]

As a tourist attraction, the Brooklyn Bridge is a popular site for clusters of "love locks"—a practice by which a couple inscribes a date and their initials onto a lock, attach it to the bridge, and throw the key into the water as a sign of their "everlasting love". The practice is officially illegal in New York City, and putting love locks or any other items on the Brooklyn Bridge is punishable by a $100 fine. NYCDOT workers periodically remove the love locks from the bridge at a cost of $100,000 per year.[327][328][329]

To highlight the Brooklyn Bridge's cultural status, the city proposed to build a Brooklyn Bridge museum on the Brooklyn side in the 1970s, though the museum was not built.[330] The plans were established after numerous planning documents were found in Williamsburg.[331] These documents were given to the New York City Municipal Archives, where they are normally located,[332] though the documents were briefly displayed at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1976.[331]


External video
Presentation by David McCullough on The Great Bridge, September 17, 2002, C-SPAN

The bridge is often featured in wide shots of the New York City skyline in television and film,[154] and has been depicted in numerous works of art.[333] Beyond that, the Brooklyn Bridge has served as an icon of America and so has been mentioned in numerous songs, books, and poems.[334] Among the most notable of these works is that of American Modernist poet Hart Crane, who used the Brooklyn Bridge as a central metaphor and organizing structure for his second and most important book of poetry, The Bridge.[334][335]

The Brooklyn Bridge has been lauded for its architecture as well. One of the first positive reviews was "The Bridge As A Monument", a Harper's Weekly piece written by architecture critic Montgomery Schuyler and published a week after the bridge's opening. In the piece, Schuyler wrote: "It so happens that the work which is likely to be our most durable monument, and to convey some knowledge of us to the most remote posterity, is a work of bare utility; not a shrine, not a fortress, not a palace, but a bridge."[336] Architecture critic Lewis Mumford would later cite the piece as the impetus for serious architectural criticism in the U.S.[334] Mumford himself wrote in the 1920s that the bridge was a source of "joy and inspiration" in his childhood,[337] and that it was a profound influence in his adolescence.[338] In later years, other critics would regard the Brooklyn Bridge as a work of art, as opposed to an engineering feat or a means of transport.[337] Not all critics appreciated the bridge, however. Henry James, writing in the early 20th century, cited the bridge as an ominous symbol of the city's transformation into a "steel-souled machine room".[337][339]

The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge is detailed in The Great Bridge (1972) by David McCullough[340] and in Brooklyn Bridge (1981), the first PBS documentary film, by Ken Burns.[341] Burns drew heavily on McCullough's book for the film and used him as narrator.[342] It is also described in Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, a BBC docudrama series with an accompanying book, as well as the book Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling, The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge (2017).[343]

The Brooklyn Bridge with Manhattan in the background, seen at daytime from Brooklyn
The same view at night

See also



  1. Sources conflict on whether the length of the Brooklyn Bridge is 6,016 feet (1,834 m) long[2][3][4] or 5,989 feet (1,825 m) long.[5][6][7]
  2. The height is also recorded as being 135 feet (41 m),[3] though this can be due to different methods of measurement and/or different recorded Mean High Water levels.
  3. The largest eyebars, which carry more stress, are located furthest away from the anchor plates. The eyebars closer to the anchor plates are progressively smaller.[28]


  1. "NYC DOT Bridges & Tunnels Annual Condition Report 2015" (PDF). New York City Department of Transportation. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  2. "Brooklyn Bridge" (PDF). New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. August 24, 1967. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  3. Facts on File Inc. (1914). The World Almanac & Book of Facts. Press Publishing Company (The New York World). p. 839. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  4. Brooklyn Citizen Almanac. Brooklyn Citizen. 1893. p. 165. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  5. National Park Service 1966, p. 2.
  6. Barnes 1883, p. 28.
  7. McCullough 1972, pp. 29–31.
  8. "Cables Slip, But Brooklyn Bridge Is Safe". New-York Tribune. July 29, 1922. pp. 1, 3 via .
  9. Feuerstein, Gary (May 29, 1998). "Brooklyn Bridge Facts, History and Information". Endex Engineering, Inc. Archived from the original on February 8, 2010. Retrieved May 23, 2011.
  10. "New York City Bridge Traffic Volumes" (PDF). New York City Department of Transportation. 2016. p. 11. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  11. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  12. "Brooklyn Bridge". National Park Service. Archived from the original on November 28, 2002.
  13. "Brooklyn Bridge", Encyclopædia Britannica
  14. Buiso, Gary (May 25, 2010). "A True Cover Up. Brooklyn Bridge Paint Job Glosses over History". New York Post. Retrieved October 23, 2010.
  15. "Captain Joseph Henderson Dead". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. October 9, 1890. p. 1. Retrieved June 1, 2019 via Brooklyn Public Library; .
  16. Talbot 2011, p. 4.
  17. "Profiles of Daring". Washington Post. June 23, 1981. Retrieved June 17, 2019.
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