NYC - The Official Guide

Guide to the Brooklyn Bridge

Andrew Rosenberg
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Celebrated in song, glamorized on celluloid and immortalized in poetry, the postcard-perfect Brooklyn Bridge stands as one of New York City’s most recognizable symbols—not to mention a magnificent feat of engineering. Upon its completion in 1883 it became the first roadway to connect Manhattan and Brooklyn, which were then separate cities (Brooklyn became part of New York City in 1898). Back then, with a central span of 1,595 feet, the Brooklyn Bridge was also the world’s longest suspension bridge.

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The bridge's appearance sets it apart: its Gothic towers with double arches, crisscrossing steel cables and graceful, gentle curvature make walking or biking across the span (or at least catching a glimpse of it) sought-after experiences for visitors. On either end are cool neighborhoods to explore: stately Brooklyn Heights and once-industrial DUMBO on the Brooklyn side; the Financial District, TriBeCa and Chinatown all within easy reach on the Manhattan side.

Below, our guide includes everything you need to know to take full advantage of a trip to what may be the most famous bridge in the world.

Brooklyn Bridge Brooklyn Bridge. Photo: Julienne Schaer

History

John A. Roebling, an immigrant from Prussia, designed the bridge—though he died due to complications from a freak accident in 1869, just before construction commenced. His son Washington took on the job of chief engineer, but a case of the bends sidelined him. Washington Roebling's wife, Emily, ultimately oversaw the construction, which was completed in 1883; the bridge's dedication and opening took place that May 24. 

Numerous changes have taken place over the years, including structural repair work, a widening of the ramps on both ends and a fresh paint job (which took about six years to complete) with a new official color, Brooklyn Bridge Tan.

The bridge is one of New York City's most recognizable symbols.

Where can I get the best views of the bridge itself?

A walk or ride on the bridge is going to position you for some excellent river vistas and changing perspectives—but to take in the whole of the bridge itself, you’ll need to go somewhere nearby. A few ideas:
 

Go down to Main Street or Pier 1 at Brooklyn Bridge Park, on the Brooklyn side, and gaze up or out. The Brooklyn Heights Promenade also provides some excellent looks.
 

In Manhattan, head to Pier 15 down by the Seaport District for a good view.

Brooklyn Bridge Park Brooklyn Bridge Park. Photo: Julienne Schaer

What should I do when I get to the other side?

Manhattan: See the African Burial Ground National Monument. Tour City Hall (for details, visit nyc.gov) or check out Tweed Courthouse. Sip a glass of wine at Racines NY. Wander up to Chinatown.
 

Brooklyn: Take a spin on Jane’s Carousel. Have pizza and ice cream in DUMBO. Check out some street murals and gallery art. Walk the gaslit blocks of Brooklyn Heights.

Jane's Carousel in Brooklyn Jane’s Carousel. Photo: Julienne Schaer

Where to enter

The pedestrian stairs on the Brooklyn side are located at Washington Street and Prospect Street, right at the northeast corner of Cadman Plaza. You can also just walk straight onto the bridge from Adams Street. On the Manhattan side, cross Centre Street near the Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall subway station for the 4, 5 and 6 lines to the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade.    

Does it matter which way I cross?

That depends on which skyline you would rather approach on your journey: the towers and canyons of Lower Manhattan or the converted warehouses and green-lined waterfront of DUMBO. Whichever way you go, make sure to take a bit of time to look up and around as you’re crossing—the cables spiderwebbing in front of the arches make for a classic picture.

Brooklyn Bridge Photo: Julienne Schaer

Does it cost anything to cross?

No. When it first opened, though, pedestrians had to pay a penny for the privilege.

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Fast facts

• The Brooklyn Bridge was the first suspension bridge to use steel rather than iron for its cables.
• Cable cars ran in NYC from 1883 to 1908, with the first line opening on the bridge. Elevated trains ran on the bridge until 1944; trolleys until 1954.
• In December 2018, the US Department of Transportation awarded a $25 million infrastructure grant toward a $337 million project to rehabilitate the bridge’s approaches and towers. This would be the first work on the towers since the bridge’s construction.
• According to the Department of Transportation, more than 100,000 cars, 4,000 cyclists and 10,000 pedestrians cross the bridge daily.
• The full length of the bridge is 6,016 feet.
• SplashHudson Hawk and On the Town are just a few of the movies that have shown off the bridge on film.
• In 2006, City workers discovered a Cold War–era stash of emergency supplies hidden inside a room in the structural foundations of the bridge.
• Check out the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge (1866), which links Cincinnati, Ohio, and Covington, Kentucky. It was Roebling's dry run for the Brooklyn Bridge.
• A plaque honoring Emily, Washington and John A. Roebling can be found on the tower on the Brooklyn side of the bridge. During his illness, Washington positioned himself in their apartment at 110 Columbia Heights (later destroyed for the construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) to monitor the bridge’s progress from afar.
• This is not really a fact, but it is a fun commercial for Brooklyn Bridge’s 100th anniversary.

Brooklyn Bridge at night Brooklyn Bridge. Photo: Julienne Schaer

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