The View from atop the High Bridge
Back in October as part of the Walk21 conference, I was very lucky to be able to accompany a small group of international pedestrian experts on an exclusive walking tour of the High Bridge, which has been closed to the public for nearly 40 years. Since Streetfilms is all about sharing, we interviewed a few folks-in-the-know and have posted the breathtaking experience of what it was like being up there.
Not soon after starting as a volunteer for Transportation Alternatives back in the 1990s I can recall reading of a push to open the High Bridge during a postcard campaign directed at then Parks Commissioner Henry Stern in 1998. In the years since, there have been many community groups, non-profits, and public agencies which have gotten involved in raising public awareness and advocating for its re-opening. City Parks Foundation, The High Bridge Coalition, and C.L.I.M.B. just to name a few.
Although over the years there have been many announced target opening dates and talk of getting the capital funds needed, of recent there is much momentum. Very early in 2010, community input and design will finally begin. Then we can hope it will not be long until we can all walk and bike across this magnificent structure.
Clarence Eckerson Jr.: [0:05] I am standing right in front of the High Bridge, a viaduct that's been closed for almost 40 years here in New York City. As part of the Walk 21 Conference, I was allowed to go up there and take some video with an international group of pedestrian experts to see what it's like.
David Rivel: [0:22] High Bridge is the oldest bridge in New York, and a lot of people are surprised to hear that. It was built in the 1850s as part of the old aqueduct system that delivered fresh water to New York City. [music]
Laura Gabby: [0:43] We're standing right now in High Bridge Park in Manhattan, and the bridge itself connects us to the High Bridge Park in the Bronx, and the High Bridge neighborhood of the Bronx.
David Rivel: [0:52] The job of City Parks Foundation was really to get the community to understand that there was this wonderful resource here, that if it was only fixed up could be a great thing for the community.
Laura Gabby: [1:03] We've organized an event called Hike the Heights. Our partner organizations start at different points throughout the parks of northern Manhattan, hike the climb trail, and converge here. [1:12] We've also partnered with organizations in the Bronx. Some of those organizations come over to Hike the Heights, and usually have to take the Washington Bridge. Opening up the High Bridge would allow them to walk directly over the High Bridge.
David Rivel: [1:25] It opens up a great transportation link. It's actually the only pedestrian walkway that connects the island of Manhattan to the continental United States. So, fixing up the bridge is just a great resource for the community in the Bronx, the community in Manhattan, and people from all over who want to come and enjoy it. [music]
Noah Budnick: [1:49] With the reopening of the High Bridge on the horizon, TA, and Bronx, and Northern Manhattan cyclists are getting really excited, because it's been a sought after route for commuters and cyclists and walkers for decades.
Laura Gabby: [2:03] The most recent is that this staircase and this path were just opened a year ago by Mayor Bloomberg. Before that, there was no way to get down here without really scrambling, and tracking through poison ivy, and making it a real hike.
David Rivel: [2:20] If experience shows from other bridges that have been reopened, the bike use is going to boom. The Manhattan Bridge was closed since World War II, and when that bridge reopened, bike use skyrocketed. And now, the Manhattan Bridge is the second most cycled bridge in the city. [music]
Noah Budnick: [2:41] It's such a perspective on the city, and it's so beautiful, I just can't wait until it's finally open for everybody.