Saturday, August 17, 2013

Vernon Avenue Bridge

Black and white postcard of bascule bridge spanning industrial waterway with factories and homes accross the creek in the background
Postcard of Vernon Avenue Bridge Facing Long Island City
Black and white postcard of open bascule bridge spanning industrial waterway
Vernon Avenue Bridge Historic Image
Small park where street dead-ends at creek
Manhattan Avenue Street End Park, Greenpoint
At the end of Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint is Manhattan Avenue Street End Park where the entrance to the Vernon Avenue Bridge once stood. The Vernon Avenue Bridge opened on October 18th, 1905 and carried trolley, automobile and pedestrian traffic over Newtown Creek to Vernon Avenue (now Vernon Boulevard).[1] Although the bridge technically provided a link to Long Island City for the somewhat isolated community in north Brooklyn, the structure was usually broken or open to allow the passage of ships.[2] The Vernon Avenue Bridge had long been inadequate, so in 1954 it was demolished and replaced by the Polaski Bridge. You can see an image of the entrance to the bridge here: Brooklyn Historical Society Blog

Boats moored along industrial waterway on Queens side of creek
Newtown Creek Sail Boats, Morning After Hurricane Sandy
Adjacent to the bulkhead under what was once the Vernon Avenue bridge are several sail boats that utilize this location as a free mooring. I have been told that the community of boat owners self identify as the "Hunters Point Boat Sanctuary".[3] The group, which started out as maritime squatters has since evolved to include nautical tourists, as well as those looking for a cheap dock for their vessel. I like that the boats are there, it makes for an interesting story but I also hope they do not spend too much time living on the creek. It is possible that the pollution in the water is being released into the surrounding air in the form of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). In addition, the bulkhead shown in the picture below is failing and the potential for damage is high if it collapses.

Boats moored along industrial waterway where Vernon Avenue Bridge once stood
Vernon Avenue Bridge Abutment

Looking at bulkhead and park on Brooklyn side of industrial waterway from Long Island City, Queens
Former Vernon Avenue Bridge Abutment Location from LIC
The boats drew my attention to this spot; then I noticed the remnants of the bridge's infrastructure. You can learn a lot about the infrastructure of yesterday by analyzing the landscape. In most places where infrastructure has been removed remnants are left behind, waiting for those who are interested to piece together the urban fabric of the past. In the case of the Vernon Avenue Bridge there is the abrupt end of Manhattan Avenue at Newtown Creek and a parking lot on the other side in the dimensions required for a bridge crossing and roadway link to Vernon Boulevard. There are also the bridge foundations and if you visit the parking lot on the Long Island City side one can observe exposed trolley tracks  in areas where the pavement surface has spalled away. 

Old trolley map of Brooklyn
Brooklyn Trolley Map Showing Vernon Avenue Bridge Crossing

Arial photo with diagram of former bride location shown
Aerial Photo of Former Vernon Avenue Bridge Location

  1. Robinson, "George Ghost of a Bridge" New York Times. online 7 December 2003
  2. "A Bridge is Built" New York Times. circa 1954
  3. Waxmen, Mitch Newtown Pentacle. online 19 August 2010

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