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The Rockaways Whimsical Little Bridge Turns 75

The Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, which sparked the growth of the Rockaways and turned an isolated area into a recreational destination, is turning 75 on July 3rd.

Photo of Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge

Connecting Brooklyn and Queens from the southern end of Flatbush Avenue to Jacob Riis Park, the bridge was the linchpin in City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses' plan to turn Jamaica Bay and the Rockaway peninsula into the city's newest recreational and residential community. He also wanted the bridge to connect to the new Belt Parkway roadway system.

"For 75 years, this bridge has brought people to new homes, helped them commute to work, deliver goods, grow their small businesses, and allowed millions to experience the joy of cool ocean breezes, but most of all, it has helped expand and strengthen the communities it continues to serve," said MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph Lhota.

The public is invited to go to the Queens Public Library's Seaside branch or the Rockaway Center for the Arts in Fort Tilden, Queens throughout the month of July to view an exhibit of historic photographs from the Bridges and Tunnels Special Archive.

"We hope the community and visitors to the Rockaways will take the opportunity to view these historic photos that give a glimpse back to the roots of what are now some of New York City's most vibrant communities," said MTA Bridges and Tunnels President Jim Ferrara.

At 3,840 feet from end to end, the Marine Parkway Bridge was the longest vertical lift span for vehicular traffic in the world when built, and remains the longest in North America today. It cost a total of nearly $6 million to build, and a dime to cross it when it opened in 1937.

The center lift span, which rises to 145 feet above water when lifted, is raised more than 100 times a year to accommodate marine traffic traveling between Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The whimsical steel towers that curl toward each other makes it stand out from other vertical lift spans of its era, which had a heavy, utilitarian appearance.

The same engineer/architect team that worked on the Henry Hudson Bridge, Madigan-Hyland with Emil H. Praeger serving as Chief Engineer, designed and carried out the plans for Marine Parkway.

Contractor crews from American Bridge Company of Pennsylvania worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week to comply with Moses' edict to have the bridge opened in time for July Fourth. They beat the deadline by a day.

The bridge opened with a flurry of activity when a 500-car motorcade led by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and Moses was upstaged 15 minutes before the start of the official opening by fire trucks from Brooklyn racing to a five-alarm fire in Rockaway Beach.

In 1978, the name of hometown hero Gil Hodges was added to the bridge, honoring the Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman and World Champion New York Mets manager, who lived in Brooklyn during his playing years.

Photo of Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial BridgePhoto of Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge