There are many great cities in the world represented by a single great sight. We recognize London at once at seeing its Parliament and Big Ben. Paris has its Eiffel Tower. Rome, the Coliseum. San Francisco has the Golden Gate. And though it is probably the most mundane of recognizable city structures, Los Angeles has its Hollywood sign. But there is one great city whose measure is usually taken not by the visage of one great building, bridge, tower, or sign, but by its entirety. The most recognizable way of showing New York City is by viewing Manhattan’s entire grand skyline.
The city’s skyline is manmade majesty on the scale of a natural wonder like the Grand Canyon. And there are many angles to choose from to enjoy the view. You can elevator to the top of the Empire State Building or World Trade Center. You can take a Circle Line Tour around the city along the East River to the Hudson, under half a dozen bridges and back. There’s a wonderful view of the city from the Promenade walkway at river’s edge in Brooklyn Heights. But perhaps the best way to enjoy the city, both for its view and for its place in history, is by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. Take the correct stairwell at the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall Station subway stop and you’ll exit right onto the pedestrian walkway in the center of the bridge above its six traffic lanes. You’ll then face one of the bridge’s 254-foot gothic towers and an intricate, quite artistic meshwork of steel cables. The bridge has a span of almost 1600 feet and from the middle of the bridge, the view of Manhattan is glorious.
The Brooklyn Bridge, which connects Brooklyn and Manhattan, is a designated national historic landmark. Started in 1869, completed in 1883, it was in its day and for decades after, the longest bridge in the world. It is perhaps the most photographed bridge in the world and is not only an engineering marvel, but a work of art. The engineer who designed the bridge, John A. Roebling, was injured during its preliminary construction when a ferry boat crashed into the pier he was standing on while taking measurements for the Brooklyn side tower. Roebling died a few days later from lockjaw (tetanus) because he refused conventional medical treatment for a crushed foot. The job of constructing the bridge was then turned over to his son, Washington Roebling. He too nearly died and became an invalid when he suffered the bends while inside one of the caissons which were designed to dig the tower foundations 78 feet below water level. Twenty-seven men, including its designer, Roebling, died building the Brooklyn Bridge.
You might consider it a pleasant hike to walk across the bridge to Brooklyn. Or, you can take another subway ride to Brooklyn’s Clark Street exit. There you’ll can visit the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage on Old Fulton Street, one of New York’s more unusual attractions. At the Anchorage, you can go inside one of the bridge’s tower pilings, into a place with cathedral arched ceilings and the starkness of a monastery. For a hundred years this space was used for storage by the Borough of Brooklyn. But in 1983, during the centenniel of the Brooklyn Bridge, it was converted into performance space. A popular art and music series is held here from early June through August (212-206-6674).
So when you visit New York, take a gander at the city from my bridge. If you like it, I’ll sell it to you. Send me e-mail bids.