Cross Bay Turns 42? Or Is It 73? Or 122?

The Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge is turning 42 this Memorial Day or is it really 73? Maybe, it's 122? It's all a matter of perspective.

The first bridge to cross Jamaica Bay was a railroad trestle bridge built in 1880. Around 1925 as Rockaway filled with hotels and summer bungalows, Cross Bay Boulevard was constructed. The new boulevard included lift bridges over Beach and North Channels that swung open in an upward direction.

But before long, the four-lane Beach Channel Bridge was choked with traffic and the newly-created New York City Parkway Authority, whose sole member was New York City Parks Commissioner and Triborough Bridge Authority Chairman Robert Moses, announced plans to improve the approach roads and widen the bridge as part of a city plan to develop Jamaica Bay as a residential and recreational area.

A new six-lane, low-level bascule bridge re-opened to traffic in 1939. By the 1960's, water traffic had become so heavy that the bridge was being lifted thousands of times annually, delaying traffic each time.

The 1939-version of the bridge was replaced by the present, stationary bridge, which at its center point is 55-feet above mean high water, which is high enough to let boats pass beneath it. It opened to traffic on May 28, 1970.

At a Memorial Day ceremony in 1974, attended by veterans, the bridge was formally renamed the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge in honor of those who gave their lives for their country. The bridge connects the Rockaway peninsula to the rest of Queens, the Belt Parkway and the Southern State Parkway. In 2011, it was used by nearly 7.2 million vehicles.

Cross Bay Aerial image
Aerial view of the Cross Bay Bridge and Cross Bay Parkway on Rockaway Peninsula. The bridge's round traffic sorter led motorists straight ahead to the wide Cross Bay Parkway, or to the right onto Beach Channel Drive. Photographer: Fairchild Aerial Surveys. Circa 1939.

Old Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge image
The Cross Bay Bridge as it appeared in the Triborough Bridge Authority fifth anniversary brochure. Photographer: Rodney McCay Morgan. 1941.

Old Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge image
Strollers entering the Rockaway Beach boardwalk from Cross Bay Parkway. Sept. 15, 1940. Photographer: Robert McCay Morgan.

Current Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge image
Current incarnation of the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge