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Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge (26)

You are in front of one of the greatest symbols of New York and one of the most iconic bridges in the world: the Brooklyn Bridge. Upon opening, it was dubbed "the eighth world wonder," a wonder that managed to achieve major milestones: being one of the first suspension bridges in the world, being the first bridge suspended by steel cables and being the longest and highest bridge in the 19th century. 

To enjoy it and the incredible views offered, we recommend you use one of its walkways and start from Brooklyn. Thus, as you cross the bridge, you can admire a spectacular view of Manhattan, while approaching its skyscrapers. Make sure, though, that you do not absent-mindedly invade the bike path, because cyclists travel at high speed and without much consideration.

You will enjoy a memorable walk through this steel and granite giant, which linked Manhattan and Brooklyn more than 125 years ago. Thus, while you enjoy the view, we will accompany you by telling you the history and special features of this magnificent bridge.

Its history begins on a cold morning in 1852, when the engineer and owner of a metallurgical company, John Augustus Roebling, tried to reach Brooklyn by ferry, but found the lines closed because of the frozen East River. Right then, he came up with the idea of creating a bridge that linked the island of Manhattan with the city of Brooklyn, which was then an independent city. From that very day, Roebling spent the rest of his life planning, raising funds and building the wonder you are contemplating. 

The idea was received with great enthusiasm by the authorities on both sides of the bridge, but the financial support had to come, initially, from the private sector. It was not until 1867, with the creation of the New York Bridge Company, which was founded to manage public funds from the cities of New York and Brooklyn for the construction and maintenance of the bridge. 

On 1 June 1869, its design is approved, but the good news was overshadowed a few days later by a sad accident Roebling suffered: a ferry crushed his foot, while working on the dock, and two years later, he died from the gangrene he had developed. His son, Washington, took over, who, unfortunately, also suffered from multiple diseases during the process. Indeed, the construction of the bridge turned out to be a really dangerous work, killing 27 people. Many worked underwater building the bridge foundations and died from the harmful effects of pressure. Washington himself ended up disabled because of that and had to manage the works through the window of his apartment in Brooklyn with the help of his wife Emily, who gave engineers and builders the relevant orders. She not only had the privilege to monitor work progress, but also had the honour of being the first to cross it on the day of its inauguration.

This happened on 24 May 1883, a memorable day for New York and Brooklyn, during which 1,800 vehicles and 150,000 people crossed the bridge. The toll to cross it was set at a penny.

Thirteen years had passed since the first day when the dream of John Augustus Roebling had begun to come true, but the long wait had been worth it: the Brooklyn Bridge was the first bridge to use steel in its construction, and for twenty years, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, 6,016 feet, or 1,833 metres, in total length, to be precise. 

The main bridge span linking the two pillars has a length of 486 metres and a width of 26 metres. Its imposing Gothic towers rise 84 metres above the water level, whereas the walkway and the river are 40 metres apart.

The four steel cables holding the bridge deck connect the anchor towers on each river bank with the pillars. Each cable features a diameter of 40 cm and comprises 19 steel wires. 

Until then, steel cables had only been used in the construction of railways, but not in structures such as bridges, and approximately 23,000 kilometres of cables hold the suspension bridge. 

It is due to all this that the Brooklyn Bridge became the monumental work it actually is. 

By the way, as monumental as the total construction cost costs: more than 15 million dollars, hence doubling the initial budget.

Unfortunately, six months after its inauguration the tragedy occurred. A woman climbing up the access stairs on the Manhattan side stumbled and screamed as she fell. The people who, at that time, were crossing the bridge thought it was sinking, and fear triggered a wave of panic killing 12 people and seriously injuring another 35. Distrust in terms of bridge resistance was overcome a year later, when the Barnum circus impresario paraded through the bridge with a herd of 21 elephants. 

After this walk through history, enjoy now the view. We suggest you stop along the way to admire the beautiful panorama you see before you. At a distance, you will see how the Midtown skyscrapers stand firm, just to the left of the Manhattan Bridge; in front of you, the great skyscrapers of Wall Street appear and, to your left, two islands within the estuary, Liberty Island and Governors Island. Behind them, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge floats, whose towers double in height those of the Brooklyn Bridge.

The bridge features now two levels. The bottom level with two three-lane roads each, along which more than 145,000 vehicles drive on a daily basis. The upper level is made up of the walkway for pedestrians and the bike path.

There is little left to say about this iconic bridge, the setting of countless films, series, comics and video games. You may have seen it destroyed by meteorites, crushed by sea monsters, used as an escape route of a whole city or as a backdrop in countless scenes. A long resume that surely many Hollywood stars would like to have, something this wonder bridge deserves.

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