Category: Archive

Queensboro, AKA 59th St. Bridge, marks 100

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Edward Hopper painted the bridge in 1913, when it was 4. (The painting is on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art.)
When it was 16, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” was published. In Chapter 4, Fitzgerald wrote: “Over the great bridge, with the sunlight through the girders making a constant flicker upon the moving cars, with the city rising up across the river in white heaps and sugar lumps all built with a wish out of non-olfactory money. The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.”
Fitzgerald was writing long before the construction of La Guardia and JFK Airports in Queens. In the age of air travel, large numbers of people would literally see the city for the first time crossing the Queensboro Bridge. And his novel came out decades before immigrants would daily view the huge structure from the No. 7 train.
The Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, too, were still in the planning stages during Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age and the United Nations headquarters was 20 years into the future.
Manhattan’s skyline had taken its modern shape by the time Alfred Hitchcock featured the Queenboro Bridge in his 1956 Henry Fonda vehicle “The Wrong Man.” In the 1960s, Simon and Garfunkel, who are both actually from Queens, made it world famous with “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy).” And in 1979, Brooklynite Woody Allen helped with his cinematography in “Manhattan.”
“The funny thing about the Queensboro Bridge is that most people I know refer to it as the 59th Street Bridge,” said Brian Aherne, who grew up in Maspeth in the 1980s and early 1990s. ” Kind of odd, I suppose, since I am Queens through and through. I think it might be a Paul Simon thing.”
Added Aherne, who is the son of Irish immigrants and is married to an Irishwoman: “Every time I drive into Manhattan, I always take it and every ime I drive my relatives [from Ireland] I take the bridge and offer them the view. They always take pictures. I think it’s their best bet for a skyline shot.”
Aherne recalled walking home along the bridge’s car lanes after the Sept. 11 attacks and also during the blackout of August 2003.
He commended the 100-year-old structure for another reason: bridges like the RFK Triborough may be much more esthetically pleasing to look at, said Aherne, but the Queenboro is free.

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