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The Queensboro Bridge turns 100!

It's extremely rare you get to cross one of New York City's major bridges by foot using the main roadway, but early Sunday morning that's just what happened as the Queensboro Bridge turned a hardy 100!

The NYC Bridge Centennial Commission is in the midst of celebrating the completion dates of six major NYC bridges and holding events to honor the magnificent stories behind them. And boy does Master of Ceremonies, "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz, have a doozy for the Queensboro: touring the bridge with politicians back in the 1980s, he used a hammer to knock holes in its rusted beams to demonstrate its dire need of repair. As the B-52s might say: "Tin roof, RUSTED!"

Mayor Bloomberg was on hand at center span to reenact the ceremony from 1909 as marching bands played, vintage automobiles ferried borough presidents from their respective sides, and there was ample picture taking and handshakes. But the moment of the day had to be when Sam Schwartz unveiled a sign replica dating to the bridge's opening. If you didn't know already folks - the Queensboro Bridge once had a 10 cent toll for automobiles. Oh, where did we go wrong?

[music]
Michael R. Bloomberg: [0:06] How is everyone feeling?
Audience: [0:07] Good!
Michael R. Bloomberg: [0:09] Personally, I'm feeling groovy! [music]
Speaker: [0:19] I'm on the Queensboro Bridge.
"Gridlock" Sam Schwartz: [0:21] I am so thrilled that we could all be out here today celebrating the 100th birthday of this bridge. I know what it takes to maintain a bridge, and we almost lost this bridge. That's how stupid we were at one time. We didn't paint the bridge. We didn't lubricate it. Bridges are great, big machines. They sway with the wind. They rise and fall with the load. They expand and contract. [music]
Scott Stringer: [0:45] This is very cool. This is never going to happen again.
Interviewer: [0:48] Not for 100 years. [laughter]
Janette Sadik-Khan: [0:51] If you're lucky, one day you may be a transportation commissioner, and one of the things you can do is climb the bridges. And so I climbed this Queensboro Bridge, and it is spectacular to look out over the borough of Manhattan and the borough of Queens, and it is a sight to see.
Michael R. Bloomberg: [1:05] You should sit back and say how lucky we are that, over the years, people have been stewards of our great stewards. And every once in a while, when we've walked away from taking care of things, the public has had the common sense to put things back together.
"Gridlock" Sam Schwartz: [1:19] The bridge did open in 1909. When it opened in 1909, there were tolls on the bridges. In 1909. [applause]
"Gridlock" Sam Schwartz: [1:29] This is a copy of the original sign. If you wanted to bring an automobile, 10 cents. Now, we calculated this. For a round-trip today, that would be $4.66.
Michael R. Bloomberg: [1:41] There you are.
"Gridlock" Sam Schwartz: [1:43] You would take it, right? [laughter]
Helen M. Marshall: [1:44] I love history, and today I feel like I'm wallowing in history. It's great. It's beautiful. And it is the Queensboro Bridge. You can call it the 59th Street Bridge, but we call it the Queensboro Bridge. But we really interchange the names all the time.
Michael Miscione: [1:57] Best parts of the ceremony was when Sam Schwartz told people to just sort of take in the moment and look at the view. And it's so true. This is a spectacular view that you seldom get, looking southward on the Queensboro Bridge.
"Gridlock" Sam Schwartz: [2:12] In the 1980s, this bridge was in such bad shape that the steel was tissue-thin. I would take politicians across the bridge because I wanted to show them that we needed to invest money in the infrastructure. And I would take a hammer and I would punch a hole with what looked like a steel beam, but it was really a rust beam. There was shock on their face, and eventually we got the money that was needed to restore this bridge. And the bridge today is stronger than it's been in more than a half-century. [2:43] I'm hoping that somebody in the year 2109 is looking at this and they're celebrating its 200th birthday, and somebody in 3009 is celebrating the millennial.


Clarence Eckerson, Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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