A New York icon, the Brooklyn Bridge, which connects Brooklyn and Manhattan, was the world’s first steel suspension bridge. Indeed, when it opened in 1883, the 1596ft span between its two support towers was the longest in history. Although its construction was fraught with disaster, the bridge became a magnificent example of urban design, inspiring poets, writers and painters. Its pedestrian walkway delivers soul-stirring views of lower Manhattan, the East River and the rapidly developing Brooklyn waterfront.
Sadly, one man deprived of this view was the bridge's own designer, John Roebling. The Prussian-born engineer's foot was crushed in an accident on Fulton Landing in June 1869; he died of tetanus poisoning a few weeks later, before construction even began. His son, Washington Roebling, supervised the work, which lasted 14 years and managed to survive budget overruns and the deaths of 20 workers. The younger Roebling himself suffered from the bends (decompression sickness) while helping to excavate the riverbed for the bridge’s western tower and remained bedridden for much of the project; his wife Emily oversaw construction in his stead. There was one final tragedy to come in June 1883, when the bridge opened to pedestrian traffic: someone in the crowd shouted (perhaps meaning it as a joke) that the bridge was collapsing into the river, setting off a mad rush in which 12 people were trampled to death.
Structural repairs on the bridge that began in 2010 are supposed to last until 2022, a headache for local residents and drivers alike. Still, beautiful as ever, it can be a challenging crossing – take care to stay on the side of the walkway marked for pedestrians, and stay out of the bike lane.