Marine Parkway Bridge Celebrates 75th Jubilee

Hodges’ Crossing Was First Rockaway Link

The Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, which helped turn an isolated area into a key recreational destination in the city and sparked the growth of the Rockaways, is celebrating its diamond jubilee.

The Marine Parkway Bridge was renamed in 1978 in honor of Gil Hodges, former Brooklyn (later Los Angeles) Dodgers first baseman and New York Mets manager, best known for leading the 1969 “Miracle Mets’ to their first World Series championship.

The bridge, connecting the borough of Brooklyn from the southern end of Flatbush Avenue to Jacob Riis Park in Rockaway, opened to traffic on July 3, 1937. According to the MTA, it was the linchpin in a plan to turn Jamaica Bay and the Rockaway peninsula into the city’s newest recreational and residential community, and to connect the area 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 Chief Executive Joseph Lhota.

The bridge’s diamond jubilee is being celebrated with the opening of an exhibit of historic photographs from the MTA Bridges and Tunnels Special Archive collection at the Queens Public Library’s Seaside branch. The exhibit, which opened on Tuesday, July 3, will be on view weekdays at the library and on weekends at the Rockaway Artists Alliance at the Rockaway Center for the Arts in Fort Tilden throughout July.

Tuesday, July 3, marked the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge. As shown, the bridge is shown in lifted position as a barge carrying a British Airways Concorde jet floated between the span in October 2008 en route to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

The Greater Astoria Historical Society, in conjunction with MTA Bridges and Tunnels, will also conduct a walking tour along the bridge’s pedestrian path this Saturday, July 7.

“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.

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, including both the Space Shuttle Enterprise and the British Airways Concorde which were floated on barges beneath the bridge (the Enterprise on June 3 and the Concorde in 2008) en route to their permanent home at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

The 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 City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses’ edict to have the bridge opened in time for July Fourth. They beat the deadline by a day and the bridge opened with a flurry of activity.

A 500-car motorcade led by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and Moses was supposed to be the first to cross the bridge but 15 minutes before the ceremony started, fire trucks from Brooklyn en route to a fivealarm fire in Rockaway Beach raced across the span.

In 1978, the name of hometown hero Gil Hodges was added to the bridge, honoring the Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman and New York Mets manager, who led the club to their “miraculous” first World Championship in 1969. Hodges lived in Brooklyn during his playing years.

The bridge has a total of 45 employees, including maintenance and operations supervisors, lieutenants, sergeants, Bridge and Tunnel officers and support staff. Bridge operations is run by Director of Bridges South William McCann. Facility Engineer Adrian Moshe oversees a staff of four engineers, who are responsible for planning and overseeing long-term capital projects.

Facts about the bridge

• In 1937, the toll was a dime; today it’s $1.80 with E-ZPass and $3.25 for cash.

• The total traffic in 1938 was nearly 1.9 million. In 2011, yearly traffic was 7.6 million.

• Total cost to build the bridge was nearly $6 million.

• Traffic increases 50 percent in summer months, thanks to beachgoers.

• The Marine Parkway Authority, tasked by the state legislature with building the bridge, had one membe—Robert Moses.

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