Brooklyn Bridge is a National Historic Landmark that connects Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River. Its primary portion is nearly 1,600-feet long (this figure rises to a remarkable 6,000 feet if you include the length of the bridge’s various approaches in the total span), its deck stands about 130 feet above the surface of the East River, and its iconic towers reach almost 275 feet into the air. In addition to serving as a key piece of city infrastructure, the Brooklyn Bridge has become an iconic destination for both locals and visitors, while nearby Brooklyn Bridge Park has become a popular attraction, too.
History of the Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge was designed by the civil engineer John A. Roebling. Work began on the project in 1869, and Roebling would die of complications from a workplace accident shortly thereafter. His son, Washington Roebling, was then named chief engineer of the project, and the bridge itself would not be completed until 1883. It was, at that time in history, the longest suspension bridge in the world.
Until the middle of the 20th Century, traffic on the bridge consisted predominantly of pedestrians, carriages, trolleys, and trains. Between roughly 1945 and 1965 the Brooklyn Bridge underwent several different significant reconstruction projects that saw it modernized and made suitable for heavy usage by motorized vehicles. It was named a National Historic Landmark in 1964, as well as added to the list of National Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks in 1972.
What’s at the Brooklyn Bridge
One of many fascinating details regarding the design of Brooklyn Bridge is its expansive approach ramps. Because of the height of the bridge’s deck, and the naturally low-lying shore line on either side of the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge slopes quite a ways inland on both the Manhattan and Brooklyn sides. This can make finding the bridge’s entrance more complicated than it would otherwise seem. From Manhattan, you’ll enter across from City Hall Park, at Park Row and Centre Street, whereas from Brooklyn you’ll catch the bridge at Cadman Plaza East.
Trucks aren’t allowed on Brooklyn Bridge, but even so there’s six lanes of traffic here that carry an average of approximately 120,000 cars every day. Fear not, though: One of the newest features of the Brooklyn Bridge is its two-way protected bike lane. Added during the Brooklyn Bridge’s most recent renovation phase, this project has enabled a whole new era of cycling, and it’s said that an estimated 3,000 people ride their bike across the bridge each day. That’s in addition to some 30,000 daily pedestrians.
The famous Brooklyn Bridge towers are made of a mixture of limestone, granite, and cement, and the towers’ arches are examples of the Gothic Revival architecture style. From the towers stretch four primary cables that support the bridge. These cables consist of thousands of galvanized steel wires bundled together. In recent years, they also support LED lights that provide the Brooklyn Bridge’s distinctive evening glow.
The Brooklyn Bridge is a spectacular spot for photographs, so whether you’re walking or biking across, have your camera ready. If you’ve got some extra time, consider visiting nearby Brooklyn Bridge Park. Located on the Brooklyn side of the East River, this scenic spot was created in 2010 out of former industrial waterfront spaces. Today it is home to trails, gardens, soccer fields, basketball courts, and more.
Tips for Visiting the Brooklyn Bridge
- Walking Tours of the Brooklyn Bridge are included on several money saving tourist passes including the New York Pass and NY Explorer Pass. In addition, they also include bike rental and tours of the area.
- Depending on your pace, and whether or not you want to linger along the way, it can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes to walk the entire way across the Brooklyn Bridge.
- Sunrise, sunset, and nighttime are three of the best times to visit Brooklyn Bridge. During each one of these periods of the day you’ll have especially spectacular views of the city from here. However, they’re also quite popular times to visit the bridge, so be prepared to deal with crowds.
- If you plan on walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, make sure to wear comfortable shoes. The entire path across the bridge is over a mile, so if you’re going to walk across AND back, remember, that’s two miles. If you don’t want to walk that far, have a transit plan in place for getting back to your starting point.
- When in doubt, dress in layers. Any weather phenomenon occurring in New York City that day—wind, sun, rain—is only going to be intensified from the exposed heights of the bridge. Wearing flexible clothing that you can add or subtract layers from is a smart idea.
- Last but not least, remember that there’s no food, drink, or restroom options available on Brooklyn Bridge, so plan accordingly.