|3 East River Bridges Dedicated As Civil Engineering Landmarks|
On Friday, April 9, 2010, ASCE National President Blaine D. Leonard, Met Section officers, and officials from the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) dedicated three bridges spanning the East River—the Williamsburg Bridge, Queensboro Bridge, and Manhattan Bridge—as ASCE's newest National Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks.
Bronze plaques marking the designation were unveiled to the public at each of the bridges and were then formally presented to NYCDOT in a ceremony held at the New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn.
The three East River bridges were designated by ASCE as national historic civil engineering landmarks in 2009 and joined ten other projects in the Met Section that were previously designated as national or international historic civil engineering landmarks, which include the neighboring suspension bridges to the north and south: the Brooklyn Bridge and the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge (formerly known as the Triborough Bridge).
The day started off with a plaque unveiling at the Queensboro Bridge, where a bronze plaque was unveiled on the Manhattan side of the bridge along East 60th Street, just west of its intersection with First Avenue. The inscription on the plaque reads as follows: "The Queensboro Bridge was longest cantilever span in North America (1,182 feet) from 1909 until the Quebec Bridge opened in 1917 and the longest in the United States until 1930. Many engineers, including R. S. Buck and Gustav Lindenthal, along with architect Henry Hornbostel, were involved with the design and construction of the Queensboro Bridge which spurred the development of the Borough of Queens." After taking photos alongside the new plaque, the group proceeded across First Avenue to observe the Guastavino tile vaults in the ceiling of the Bridgemarket, one of the bridge's noted architectural elements.
A second plaque unveiling was next held at the Manhattan approach of the Williamsburg Bridge, near the intersection of Delancey Street and Clinton Street, where a bronze plaque was unveiled at the entrance to the pedestrian and bicycle path. The inscription on the plaque reads as follows: "Designed by Leffert Lefferts Buck, a prolific bridge engineer of the post-Civil War period, the Williamsburg Bridge's 1,600-foot main span was the longest in the world from 1903 until 1924. With 40-foot deep stiffening trusses, it was the first major suspension bridge to have steel towers. It is also an important link in New York's rail transit system." The group posed for pictures next to the plaque and also briefly spoke with some of the civil engineers currently at the bridge working on a rehabilitation project.
After stopping for lunch at a restaurant in Brooklyn's DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood, the group stopped to view the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn Bridge Park and walked through the newly restored archway through the anchorage at Water Street. Then a bronze plaque was unveiled on the plaza near the entrance to the pedestrian path, which is located on the east side of Jay Street between High and Sands Street, where President Leonard was joined by NYCDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and NYCDOT Deputy Commissioner for Bridges Henry D. Perahia.
The inscription on the plaque at the Manhattan Bridge reads as follows: "A wire cable suspension bridge with a main span of 1,470 feet, the Manhattan Bridge was the world's third longest from 1909 to 1924. Working under Chief Engineer Othniel Foster Nichols, Leon Moisseiff designed the bridge, employing the first use of deflection theory on a suspension bridge, considered to be the first modern suspension bridge. It was also the earliest to use slender "two dimensional" steel towers with shallow stiffening trusses. It is an important link in New York's rail transit system."
Following the plaque unveiling, guests walked along the pedestrian path to the Brooklyn tower of the bridge, viewing the builder's plate, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the skyline of Lower Manhattan. The group returned to the New York City College of Technology for a formal dedication ceremony that included speakers from the college, Met Section, NYCDOT, and NYC Bridge Centennial Commission (a non-profit group formed to recognize the 100th year anniversary of six New York City bridges, which include the Manhattan and Queensboro Bridge). Robert Olmsted, Chair of the Met Section's History and Heritage Committee provided a historic overview of the three bridges.
Before starting the day's events with the plaque unveiling at the Queensboro Bridge, a brief visit was also made to the former ASCE Society House on West 57th Street near Carnegie Hall, which served as ASCE's headquarters from 1897-1917 and was designated as a New York City Landmark in 2008.
On their way to the Williamsburg Bridge, the group made a brief visit to the New York Marble Cemetery in the East Village, the gravesite of Benjamin Wright, the chief engineer of the Erie Canal. Described as the "Father of American Civil Engineering," before his death Wright also chaired a committee that looked into the possibility of creating a national society for civil engineers in the United States, which started discussions that eventually led to the formation of ASCE.
After a reception held at the New York City College of Technology, the group walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and visited the ASCE Founder's Plaque in City Hall Park, the former site of the Rotunda Building and the offices of the Croton Aqueduct Department, where ASCE's founding meeting was held on November 5, 1852.
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