Robert Moses: Builder Of Bridges and Parks
Robert Moses may have been known as the master builder of New York’s highway system but he was also Commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and whenever he built a new bridge he also constructed a new park nearby or chose a spot near an existing park.
The flagship bridge of MTA Bridges and Tunnels, the Triborough Bridge (renamed the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge in 2008) was built in 1936. As part of the construction, Moses built the nearly 60-acre Astoria Park which sits in the shadow of the bridge’s Queens span. When built, Astoria Park contained the city’s largest swimming pool, which was used for Olympic qualifying events in 1936 and 1964.
The Henry Hudson Bridge soon followed. The bridge connects the Inwood section of Manhattan to the Riverdale and Spuyten Duyvil sections in the Bronx. With Inwood Park in Manhattan and the small Henry Hudson Park in Spuyten Duyvil already in place, Moses had little building to do but he did commission the 16-foot bronze statue of 16th century explorer Henry Hudson in Henry Hudson Park. Construction on the monument began in 1912 but ran into funding problems and was abruptly halted. Moses resurrected the idea and completed the monument in 1938.
The Marine Parkway- Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge was also built near an existing park. In fact it was built in 1937 as part of a city plan to develop Jamaica Bay and the Rockaway Peninsula as a recreational and residential area. Riis Park, which sits on the Atlantic Ocean, opened in 1939. At the time it had the largest parking lot in the world with more than 5,000 spaces.
Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge was built in 1939 as part of the same project to develop the Rockaway Peninsula and connects on the other side to Broad Channel and the Jamaica Wildlife Refuge. It was constructed by the New York City Parkway Authority, which was folded into the Triborough Bridge Authority in 1940. A new high-level, fixed bridge replaced the original bridge in 1970.
Two brand new parks were built in conjunction with the construction of the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge in 1939. In the Bronx, Old Ferry Point was expanded with landfill to create Ferry Point Park. On the Queens side, Francis Lewis Park was constructed and former water supply properties in Queens were converted into recreational areas along the bridge’s approaches. The Throgs Neck Bridge, which opened in 1961, already had a Clearview Park, now called Little Bay Park, located nearby.
Fort Hamilton Playground in Brooklyn was built by Moses and the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority in conjunction with the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The park, now called John J. Carty Park, was turned over to the city Parks Department when it opened in 1965.