New York City – Bridges to Civilization

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The Manhattan Bridge carries automobile, truck, subway, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic over the East River. The Bridge runs between Flatbush Avenue Extension in Downtown Brooklyn and Canal Street in Chinatown, Manhattan.

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The Manhattan Bridge was the last of the three suspension bridges built across the lower East River, following the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges. It has four vehicle lanes on the upper level, split between two roadways. The lower level has three lanes, four subway tracks, a walkway and a bikeway. The upper level, originally used for streetcars, has two lanes in each direction, and the lower level is one-way and has three lanes in peak direction.

The Bridge supports seven lanes of vehicular traffic, four transit train lines, a pedestrian walkway and a Class 1 bikeway. Every weekday, the Bridge carries over 450,000 commuters, including 106,700 commuters in 85,400 vehicles, 4,000 bicyclists and 340,900 mass transit riders in 950 subway trains. Over 75% of all Manhattan Bridge crossings are by public transit.

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“I remember perfectly my first trip to New York, when I was on the bridge between Brooklyn and Manhattan, when I saw the skyscrapers. It was like an incredible dream.”

Diego Della Valle

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The Brooklyn Bridge, built between 1869 and 1883, connects Manhattan with New York’s most populous borough, Brooklyn. The bridge is one of the most famous and magnificent landmarks in New York City.

An elevated pedestrian path not only gives you the opportunity to cross the river without being bothered by the traffic that rushes past a level below, but it also offers a great view of the bridge’s towers as well as downtown Manhattan’s skyline. The views alone attract millions of visitors to this bridge each year.

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The most noticeable feature of the Brooklyn Bridge are the two masonry towers to which the many cables are attached. The towers with large Gothic arches reach a height of 276 ft (84 meters), at the time making them some of the tallest landmarks in New York. Roebling claimed that the monumental towers would make the bridge a historic monument. He was proven right when the bridge officially became a national monument in 1964.

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The Brooklyn Bridge ranks as one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century and remains one of New York’s most popular and well known landmarks.

The impressive bridge spans the East river between Brooklyn and Manhattan and stretches for a length of 5989 ft, about 1.8 km. The span between the large towers measures 1595.5 ft (486 meters). This made the Brooklyn Bridge the world’s largest suspension bridge.

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The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge started in 1869 and took fourteen years to complete. At the time many saw the construction of such a large bridge as a folly.

The driving force behind the whole project, John Roebling, was a German immigrant who had worked for the Prussian government as a bridge and road builder. He launched the idea of building a bridge across the East River after he had taken a ferry across the river that ended up stuck in the ice.

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“I once started out

to walk around the world

but ended up in Brooklyn,

that Bridge was too much for me.”

― Lawrence Ferlinghetti, A Coney Island of the Mind

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“Over the great bridge, with sunlight through the girders making a constant flicker upon the moving cars, with the city rising up across the river in white heaps and sugar lumps all built with a wish out of non-olfactory money. The city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

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“Up on the Brooklyn Bridge a man is standing in agony, waiting to jump, or waiting to write a poem, or waiting for the blood to leave his vessels because if he advances another foot the pain of his love will kill him.”
― Henry Miller, Black Spring

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New York City – An Architectural Wonderland

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“I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York’s skyline. Particularly when one can’t see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need? And then people tell me about pilgrimages to some dank pesthole in a jungle where they go to do homage to a crumbling temple, to a leering stone monster with a pot belly, created by some leprous savage. Is it beauty and genius they want to see? Do they seek a sense of the sublime? Let them come to New York, stand on the shore of the Hudson, look and kneel. When I see the city from my window – no, I don’t feel how small I am – but I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body.”

― Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

This is my first post in a series of pictorial essays on New York City. It’s an all too brief glimpse into the enigma and the phenomenon that is the city’s architecture, people, neighbourhoods, street life, bridges, subways, restaurants, taxis, and overall incomparable vibe and dynamic.

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New York City is the largest city of the United States by population. It was settled in 1613 by Dutch and originally called New Amsterdam. New York City is popularly known as the “The Big Apple”, “Gotham City”, “Empire City”, “Fun City”, “The Naked City” and the “City That Never Sleeps”. Manhattan Island is often referred to as “The City” by New Yorkers, despite being only one part of the city itself. New York City is often referred to as “the Capital of the World”, due to its size, wealth, and for its hosting of the United Nations headquarters. To those living there, it is simply the Centre of the Universe.

Ellis Island

Ellis Island

“I’m going to show you the real New York – witty, smart, and international – like any metropolis. Tell me this: where in Europe can you find old Hungary, old Russia, old France, old Italy? In Europe you’re trying to copy America, you’re almost American. But here you’ll find Europeans who immigrated a hundred years ago – and we haven’t spoiled them. Oh, Gio! You must see why I love New York. Because the whole world’s in New York.”

― Oriana Fallaci

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

“Living in New York City, I am reminded by the Statue of Liberty that the United States of America has always welcomed those yearning to breathe free and seek a better life.”
– Charles B. Rangel

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“The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World” was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the United States and is recognized as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886.  It was designated as a National Monument in 1924.

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“Many of America’s and New York’s sons and daughters are around the world fighting for the freedoms that the Statue of Liberty stands for.”

– Michael Bloomberg (Former NYC Mayor)
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A great way to get a first hand view of the Statue of Liberty without succumbing to the tourist trap vultures, is to take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. It’s free, and travels between Staten Island and Manhattan, and passes pretty close to the statue.
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“And you have to remember that I came to America as an immigrant. You know, on a ship, through the Statue of Liberty. And I saw that skyline, not just as a representation of steel and concrete and glass, but as really the substance of the American Dream.”

– Daniel Libeskind


Empire State Building

Empire State Building

“In New York the sky is bluer, and the grass is greener, and the girls are prettier, and the steaks are thicker, and the buildings are higher, and the streets are wider, and the air is finer, than the sky, or the grass, or the girls, or the steaks, or the air of any place else in the world.”

-Edna Ferber 

Empire State Building

Empire State Building

“The skyscrapers began to rise again, frailly massive, elegantly utilitarian, images in their grace, audacity and inconclusiveness, of the whole character of the people who produces them.”

– Malcolm Muggeridge

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Woolworth Building

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“When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for; and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say, as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, ‘See! This our father did for us.'”

–John Ruskin, “The Seven Lamps of Architecture.” New York: The Noonday Press, 1961, p. 177

Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building

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New York by Gehry – 8 Spruce Street. Tallest residential tower in the Western hemisphere.

“I’m still walking around New York like a tourist staring up at all the skyscrapers. I wave at people, I shake hands, I help ladies with strollers.”

– Jack McBrayer

Flatiron Building

Flatiron Building

“New York is cold, glittering, malign. The buildings dominate. There is a sort of atomic frenzy to the activity going on; the more furious the pace, the more diminished the spirit. A constant ferment, but it might just as well be going on in a test tube. Nobody knows what it’s all about. Nobody directs the energy. Stupendous. Bizarre. Baffling. A tremendous reactive urge, but absolutely uncoordinated.”

– Henry Miller

Freedom Tower - One World Trade Center

Freedom Tower – One World Trade Centre

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“New York is vertical – all skyscrapers.”

– Tony Scott

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“I go to Paris, I go to London, I go to Rome, and I always say, “There’s no place like New York. It’s the most exciting city in the world now. That’s the way it is. That’s it.”

– Robert De Niro

Architecture 21 copyCourthouse

“We’ve all often heard the expression, ‘It’s cheaper to build new than it is to reconstruct.’ That’s not true. I’ve always found that it’s cheaper to use an existing structure. Now, doing so is more complicated, and you actually have to be a better builder to do that kind of work, but if you know what you’re doing, it costs you less money. A lot of the building is already done–you already have your structure–so that’s why it’s much cheaper. For example, I saved a substantial amount of money when I built Trump Park Avenue in New York City by reusing the Delmonico Hotel’s foundation, frame, and exterior.”

–Donald Trump

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City Hall

Watertower Building

Water Tower Building

Water towers in New York are everywhere. Just look up and you’ll notice on top of New York’s buildings round, wooden structures that look like ancient relics from the past that were accidentally left there. The water towers in New York might look old and yes, they are, but they encompass the past, present, and most likely the future. As New Yorkers reached for the skies in the 1800’s, water towers became an intricate part of the buildings’ framework. As buildings grew taller than 6 stories, the main water infrastructure couldn’t handle the water pressure. Water towers were needed to move water safely to the 7th floor and above.  Although they looks like remnants of the past, they are still very much in use today.

Architecture 18 copyGotham Hall

“At night… the streets become rhythmical perspectives of glowing dotted lines, reflections hung upon them in the streets as the wistaria hangs its violet racemes on its trellis. The buildings are shimmering verticality, a gossamer veil, a festive scene-prop hanging there against the black sky to dazzle, entertain, amaze.”

– Frank Lloyd Wright

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“Sometimes, from beyond the skyscrapers, the cry of a tugboat finds you in your insomnia, and you remember that this desert of iron and cement is an island.”

― Albert Camus

View of NYC skyline from Brooklyn

View of NYC Skyline from Brooklyn

“Unfortunately there are still people in other areas who regard New York City not as part of the United States, but as a sort of excrescence fastened to our Eastern shore and peopled by the less venturesome waves of foreigners who failed to go West to the genuine American frontier.”

– Robert Moses