You may want to crucify me after admitting this but I had never understood what was the big deal with the Brooklyn Bridge. Taking the stage as background for so many movies and series, this is one of the most photographed sights in NYC. Yet, that was before seeing it in person.
You know when you are upon something that just looks unreal? Almost like it’s actually a gigantic piece of paper, a theatre scenario that was put in front of you. That’s how I felt when I started crossing the bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn. I had seen this bridge so many times on screens and in glossy photographs that it just felt like one of the most unreal experiences in person. I was amazed, and it’s not easy to get me in such a state anymore.
It was another hot day in the city and so I started early. Since I was staying in Midtown, I took the subway and got off at the City Hall station. I had been in that area before, on my first day of exploration, but I had walked from the City Hall to the Financial District, to visit the 9/11 Memorial. But I knew where to turn. From where I was getting off, I needed to turn left. I did, walked for a few minutes, the sun already proving relentless, and there it was. The first land connection of Manhattan to Brooklyn. The first steel suspension bridge in the world. And it looked glorious.
There weren’t yet many people around, and souvenir sellers had just settled on the sides, attempting to catch tourists’ attention with a diverse collection of magnets, hats and caps, little toys of the yellow cab and the NYPD police car. I felt incredibly sorry for them. To have to stay there, in the sun, with such heat, with only a small sun hat for protection. I actually thought that on the way back I should buy something from them. I did not, in the end. Eventually, I was too tired. But let’s focus on the Bridge.
When you cross the Brooklyn bridge you will be stopping for two things. To admire the architectural marvel of it, but also the amazing views of Lower Manhattan. For this reason, it may take you an hour or even more cross the bridge, instead of the twenty or thirty minutes locals probably take. And you know what? That is fine. Because this is another one of the free NYC attractions that you should take your time enjoying.
But now here’s the somewhat eerie story of its origins. This 486-meter-long bridge opened in 1883 and was designed by John Roebling, a German-born engineer. Unfortunately, he died of tetanus, due to complications after having his foot crushed by a ferry before its construction was finished. It was his son, Washington Roebling who ended up supervising the project, which lasted 14 years. However, the family seemed cursed. Roebling junior contracted decompression sickness, also known as the “the bends”, from working underwater in a pressurised caisson. Bedridden, he then relied on his wife, Emily Warren Roebling, also an engineer and mathematician to oversee the constructions. As all of the burdens eventually do fall on women as history proves again and again, besides this great responsibility, she also had to deal with budget overruns and angry politicians.
Overall, besides the Roeblings, 27 workers died during the construction of this bridge and, just a few days after its opening, a massive crowd of pedestrians was bottlenecked when rumours of collapse set off the crowds in a panic – 12 people were crushed to death and dozens were injured.
It is always interesting to get to know the history behind what we have today! Walking the Brooklyn Bridge was one of my favourite experiences in NYC, and I did it twice, as I also walked the way back.
When I came to the other end, into Brooklyn, I walked in the direction of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Another area with a history that should be known and heard – before the abolishment of slavery in 1827, this area was actually home to Brooklyn’s free Black community. Now, this is a place where you must go to see amazing views of Lower Manhattan’s skyline – locals walk, jog, throw parties, and attend festivals (such as a photography festival in place when I visited) in this park.
It was very hot indeed, and I could not resist having some ice cream here whilst enjoying the views – I did have to be very quick though, as it was melting at a record pace!
I headed to the Times Out Market to get lunch and acquire some much-needed calories. I was quite lucky to have arrived relatively early for lunch, as 20 minutes later the place was crowded and I wouldn’t have been able to grab a table outside with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge. I’d say even if you’re not interested in eating at the Time Out Food Market, head there and take the lift to the upper floor for pretty amazing views.
Brooklyn is definitely an area I would love to explore more in a future second trip to NYC. This was already my fifth day exploring, under intense heat and I had to make choices. Still, I was able to see the main highlights of the Dumbo neighbourhood – particular one of the most Instagram-able places.
While most of the focus is on Brooklyn Bridge Park for the views, I encourage you to extend your stroll beyond the Time Out Market in direction of the Manhattan Bridge – also a very impressive structure, and the views are breathtaking
This is it for today! I hope my photos can do justice to the beauty of these bridges 🙂