The power of the Manhattan Bridge cannot be denied. It is an orchestration of rivet studded girders, harp like cables and beautiful beaux art design and it spans the East River like a dancer leaping across a stage. Her audience is the city of New York and specifically its Brooklyn residents. I ride across her expanse daily via the subway. I always position myself by a window. Once the train is delivered from darkness, I stop what I am reading and look out: out the windows, through the massive metal beams, beyond the walkway and out into the city. It is a ride I never tire of because the beauty is apparent and it is relatively short lived. Slowly the train descends into the tunnel on the other side and the journey continues and my eyes return to the page in the book I am reading.
I intimately know the Manhattan Bridge. In desperation I crossed her road bed on two occasions: the first time on 9/11 and the second after the blackout it 2003. Each time I approached the slope of the bridge, with its beautiful arched entry way flanked by an elegant colonnade on either side. It is majestic. On those particular days the bridge had a power of its own. In the middle road bed where cars normally swim to and from Manhattan, a sea of people marched across to Brooklyn in earnest. It was hard to enjoy the beauty of the bridge on those days, but there was no denying the exhilarating power that was felt by all, as thousands crossed her span.
On other occasions I ride my bike across the Manhattan Bridge. Each time I try and anticipate where and when vertigo will set in. The walkways are on the outer edge of the bridge. For me I feel like I am riding on a thin strip of balsa, delicately and precariously attached to her massive beams. Like a surfer who rides a great wave, I am propelled forward by the sheer power and force of this great bridge. At times when I have stopped to enjoy the view, I felt the constant vibrations rippling through her monumental body. During those times, my knees weaken and I feel as though I could topple over. To overcome this unsettling feeling, I have to stand rigid with my back to her gargantuan supports, with my hands splayed wide against her metal. When I have looked up to marvel at her magnificent spire that kisses the sky, I am forced to the ground cowering on all fours. It is then I feel the vibrations of the bridge even stronger and I have to force myself not to scream in terror. After I regain my composure, I then gingerly mount my bike, tightening my foot stirrups so I can ride more swiftly. My eyes stay focused on the walkway, until I feel myself calming down. The mighty Manhattan is like an aphrodisiac, I just can’t deny or stay away from the thrill I feel each and every time I am on her.
Below is a brief listing of websites and articles about the Manhattan Bridge
- A good general site discussing the Manhattan Bridge, accompanied with great photos.
- An article by Christopher Gray, NYTimes Streetscapes columnist lamenting the great beauty of the Manhattan Bridge.
- An interesting article about the engineering marvel of the Manhattan Bridge.
- Berenice Abbott photos (1) and (2) of Manhattan Bridge from NYPL Digital Gallery
- From the Museum of the City of New York and their great collection of Berenice Abbott photos, including Manhattan Bridge photos