For one day at least, the Queensboro Bridge, memorialized by the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Paul Simon, outshone its more famous East River rival as the span celebrated its 100th birthday.
In a morning ceremony on May 31, separate motorcades from the Queens and Manhattan sides bearing their respective borough presidents met midway on the bridge’s upper roadway to celebrate the bridge centennial.
There to meet them was Mayor Bloomberg, three marching bands, and even 95-year-old Francesca Lindenthal-Gebhardt, whose father helped design the bridge.
“By building this bridge it made us the great city we are today,” said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, who pointed out that prior to its construction Queens and Brooklyn remained isolated from Manhattan. “Graceful yet sturdy, it continues to serve the transportation needs of New York City, and under the watchful eye of the Department of Transportation it will continue to do so for many years to come.”
Construction on the bridge began in July of 1901. When it was completed in March of 1909 it became, at 7,449 feet, the longest bridge to span the East River. Today, 192,000 vehicles pass over the Queensboro daily, making it the busiest in the city, according to Sam Schwartz, the former New York City Traffic Commissioner and president of the Bridge Centennial Commission, the group which hosted the celebration.
“Even in difficult times New Yorkers love to celebrate, and we have a lot to celebrate in this city,” said Bloomberg at the ceremony. “We can do amazing things and we’re standing on one of them right now.
“Congratulations, Queensboro Bridge,” the mayor added. “You don’t look a day over 100.”
The hundred or so spectators who attended the event were treated to a rare, traffic-free hour on the bridge’s upper roadway, home to spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline that have inspired great writers and musicians - and ordinary New Yorkers - for the past century.
“Absolutely gorgeous,” said Queens resident Judy Polczer, of the bridge and view of Manhattan. “It’s just a beautiful city.”
“The bridge is important, I travel it all the time,” said Tony Lana, a Queens resident who directed the Sunnyside Drum Corps in a special tribute at the celebration. Lana, like others there to celebrate, said he had fond memories of driving back and forth over the bridge dating back to childhood.
Perhaps nobody had a longer memory of the bridge than Lindenthal-Gebhardt, whose father Gustav Lindenthal - the first Commissioner of the Department of Bridges - began work on the bridge at the turn of the 20th century.
“At my age to be able to still take part [in the celebration], I’m very glad to be able to do that,” said Lindenthal-Gebhardt, who now lives in New Jersey. “I’m honored to be included.”