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Do You Remember?

"The Throgs Neck Bridge"

(Reprinted from the Bronx Times Reporter February 2, 2006)

The Throgs Neck Bridge has only one g in the spelling of its name although prior to its construction the community used two g’s to identify itself. It altered more than the name of the neighborhood, however, as the construction caused the loss of homes and even changed the roadway system in the area. It should be mentioned that 421 homes in Bayside on the Queens side were also displaced. Once opened, real estate values soared and swamplands and vacant lots were given another life as new homes sprouted up like corn in Kansas. Located in a two-fare zone, the Throggs Neck community was relatively unknown and sparsely populated prior to the bridge. Former neighbors now found themselves separated by a six-lane highway and had to walk many blocks to visit friends that were once just across the street. Life in Throggs Neck would never be the same.

Vehicles, now vintage, are lined up awaiting the grand opening of the Throgs Neck Bridge on January 11, 1961.  Bronx Beach and Pool can be seen at the right off East 177th Street and Longstreet Avenue.
(Photo courtesy of Ronald Schliessman)

Groundbreaking ceremonies for the bridge took place at Fort Schuyler on October 22, 1957. The college there actually was one of the few entities to benefit from the bridge. The Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority needed an easement from the New York State Maritime College at Fort Schuyler to begin construction and the college agreed to grant it. They had a landfill project pending and were given permission for it in return for the easement.
 

The bridge was designed by Othmar H. Ammann beginning in 1954 and its final cost was $92,503,000. The length is 11,064 feet between abutments and 13,933 feet overall in the elevated section while the towers rise about 355 feet above mean high water. It was built to carry six lanes of traffic and has a four foot wide divider. There are two emergency sidewalks of two and a half feet in width.

Local youths did not need emergency sidewalks, however, and found other ways of traversing the new highway to Queens. They simply shinnied up the pipes under the bridge at Locust Point and used the catwalk under the bridge to reach the tower legs. They descended inside the leg via a ladder secured to the inner wall. They turned on the light switch and had a nice indoor playground. When they tired of playing ball, they crossed over to the Queens side where, on one occasion, they encountered youths from that borough catching pigeons for their coops. The teens were able to access the tower legs from the road level via a hatch door. Once inside they used the key operated elevator to travel to the top where a control room was located. It held all the equipment of the lighting system. A hatch door on the top allowed access outside but the wind was such that one had to lie down to prevent being blown off. It was a dangerous procedure only accessed by the more daring teenagers. After several years of this activity, the TBTA got wise to their antics and installed security meshes, etc. to prevent access to the underside of the bridge and the kids found other outlets for their youthful energy.

The bridge carries about forty million vehicles a year and the emissions from these vehicles has probably found its way into the soil. I wonder if it affects the taste (or healthy nature) of home-grown tomatoes in the Throggs Neck or Bayside communities. The Throgs Neck Bridge has had quite an impact on both sides of the Long Island Sound and most old-timers wish it was never built.

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