Restoring the city’s oldest standing bridge after 45 years
NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, DDC Commissioner Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora and Congressman José E. Serrano celebrated the reopening of the High Bridge today. They were joined in celebration by Councilmembers Fernando Cabrera, Vanessa Gibson, Mark Levine, and Ydanis Rodriguez; Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.; Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer; Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities Victor Calise; author and actor Sonia Manzano (Maria from Sesame Street and author of The Lowdown on the High Bridge); and local advocate Chauncy Young; young High Bridge Historians Jocelyn Fuentes and Isabel Pasionara Young-Figueroa. Highbridge Voices and I.S. 52 Inwood Tiger Band added music to the celebration. Having been closed to the public for more than 40 years, today the High Bridge will once again provide scenic pedestrian and cycling access between the Bronx and Manhattan.
Opened in 1848, the High Bridge is the oldest standing bridge in New York City and was a part of the city’s first water supply system. After being closed for more than four decades, NYC Parks and DDC restored and improved the 1,450-foot-long, 123-foot high bridge. As the only interborough bridge designed exclusively for pedestrians and bicyclists, the restoration of the High Bridge provides communities of both Manhattan and the Bronx with access to more than 125 acres of green space with baseball fields, basketball courts, bike trails, a skatepark, playgrounds and lawns.
The High Bridge restores a unique connection between two boroughs and provides communities with access to resources in both counties. Bronx residents are now able to walk directly to the Highbridge Pool and Recreation Center, while Manhattan residents will gain access to the Harlem River waterfront. The improved design will also allow pedestrians to enjoy new features including a hand-restored brick walkway, restored historic railing, new safety fence, barrier-free access, and new architectural lighting.
“After years of dedicated effort, the High Bridge now offers a very real connection between neighbors, boroughs, and crucial resources. Starting today, the people of the Bronx and Manhattan – and indeed all New Yorkers – have will once again be able to walk, bike, or simply sit and enjoy this beautiful bridge,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP. “In addition to connecting people, High Bridge creates a link between our great history and our bright, green future. This is a place to connect with the generations of creativity, determination, and genius who built our city, the Greatest City in the World.”
“Through the hard work and diligent efforts of so many talented people, we have restored not only the City’s oldest bridge, but also a vital and critical link between upper Manhattan and the Bronx,” noted Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Design and Construction. “At DDC, we are committed to strengthening our agency’s connection to the communities we serve and to making our City’s infrastructure more resilient and environmentally-sustainable, and the High Bridge satisfies all these important components. However, this bridge is very important to me personally; as a new arrival to America, I lived right across from it, in Washington Heights. I used to marvel at it when I was growing up, and now as the Commissioner of our City’s Primary Capital Construction Agency, I am inspired by it. It is truly exciting to be here at the ribbon cutting of the new High Bridge, to celebrate such an important part of our City’s engineering past, while also looking forward to the endless possibilities that this bridge will provide for future generations. DDC is proud to have partnered with DPR, our local elected officials and community stakeholders, on this important project.”
“After years of hard work at the local level to bring this project to fruition, it is exciting to see the High Bridge completely renovated and open again to the public,” said Congressman José E. Serrano. “This project will help connect the Bronx to Manhattan, expand access to green space and outdoor recreational opportunities, which has always been a priority of mine; and connect two communities that have many things in common – Washington Heights and the Bronx. I am incredibly proud to have been able to get this project started with $5 million in earmark funding, and I look forward to seeing the positive impact it will have on Bronxites’ quality of life and health. This opening is a testament to the hard work of local community groups, and their perseverance in working to reopen one of the real historic treasures in our city.”
“I think it is great that one of our oldest bridges in New York City is reopening and connecting our great borough with Manhattan,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “The best part of it is that not only is a historical piece of infrastructure of our great borough returning back to use but, considering our ‘#Not62’ campaign’, through the High Bridge project, we are getting additional green space with baseball fields and basketball courts as well as the only interborough bridge designed exclusively for walking and biking, promoting a healthier lifestyle for our Bronx residents.”
“In a city that offers us nearly everything, the restored High Bridge is a rare first: the only interborough bridge reserved just for pedestrians and bikes,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “It’s a beautiful structure that will offer visitors from both sides of the Harlem River green space, recreational facilities, and amazing views.”
“I could not be more excited for the opening of the High Bridge,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. With this new feature, we will assuredly revitalize the economies of both Washington Heights and Morris Heights by better connecting our communities and giving tourists yet another reason to visit Northern Manhattan. I applaud the work the Department of Design and Construction, especially Commissioner Pena-Mora, as well as the Department of Parks on their work.
“The restored High Bridge will be an invaluable addition to our great city,” said Councilman Fernando Cabrera. “Following a series of tragedies in which pedestrians and cyclists have been killed or injured, resurrecting this historic bridge is a very practical measure, as it will facilitate safe passage between boroughs for non-drivers. The creation of additional green space and a tourist attraction in our borough are extra perks.”
“I am happy to be here representing the soon to open Bronx Children Museum and to have written the Museum’s first book about this magnificent Bridge,” said Sonia Manzano. “This book was written as a gift to the young children of Highbridge as part of one of the Museum’s outreach programs in 8 schools in Highbridge, Bronx. The Museum knew a picture book was the perfect way to introduce children to the significance of the Bridge. So they asked me to help. The result is The Lowdown of the High Bridge. It was fun to write and it’s a perfect example of a Bronx Children’s Museum outreach program. I hope this is just the beginning of an exciting relationship between the kids and families, The High Bridge, and the Bronx Children’s Museum.”
“The historic High Bridge represents a significant artistic and architectural achievement that benefits local residents while drawing significant numbers of tourists,” said State Senator José M. Serrano. “The much-needed restoration of this impressive inter-borough bridge will provide local transportation alternatives for the community, while serving as a shining example of the rich history of The Bronx and Upper Manhattan. This restoration would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of the NYC Parks Department, who along with local elected officials envisioned the transformation of New York City’s oldest standing bridge into a modern amenity to be enjoyed by current and future residents.”
“Twenty years ago 10-year-old Maaret Klaber had a vision that an overgrown patch of weeds in the shadow of the High Bridge, and the Bridge itself, could be restored to their former glory as a tourist destination and a connection between two neighborhoods,” said State Senator Adriano Espaillat. “Today, that vision is complete and we can enjoy this engineering feat as have generations before us. The High Bridge started its life as a vital connection to water, it now serves as a connection from our past to our future.”
“Having been involved with this project for many years I am thrilled that opening day has finally arrived,” said Assembly Member Guillermo Linares. “The reopening of the historic High Bridge will be a boon to both the Upper Manhattan and Bronx communities. My thanks to all of those whose hard work made this possible.”
“I am happy to welcome back the High Bridge, New York City’s oldest standing bridge, to its rightful spot as one of New York’s major attractions,” said Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner. “For Bronx families and residents in my district, and those who call upper Manhattan home, the High Bridge will once again become an essential part of their lives after having been closed more than 40 years. I commend the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and New York City Department of Design and Construction, as well as all my colleagues, for their hard work. They have revitalized this vital bridge, restoring an essential pedestrian and cycling thoroughfare that connects the Bronx and Manhattan.”
The rebuilding of High Bridge was a community effort. From 2004-2008, Partnerships for Parks, a joint program of NYC Parks and the City Parks Foundation provided dedicated staff support and resources to the communities surrounding the High Bridge and the connected parks, with the goal of furthering their vision of revitalizing these spaces. These tools and resources were used to engage more than 44,200 residents and work with more than 60 partner groups who were involved in the revitalization of the park and contributed to the reopening of High Bridge today. On July 25, neighbors will gather again at the High Bridge for a community-curated celebration of the reopening of the bridge.
The High Bridge will be open daily from 7 AM to 8 PM. In the coming months, visitors may notice crews completing a few remaining construction items on the bridge. The completion of these final touches will have a minimal impact on the visitor experience.
Funding for this project was generously provided by the City of New York through PlaNYC, the Honorable José E. Serrano, and the Federal Highway Administration.
To learn more about the High Bridge visit www.thehighbridge.org.