Queens officials call for a paint job of Astoria’s Hell Gate Bridge

THE COURIER/Photo by Angela Matua

Officials are calling on Amtrak to provide the ultimate birthday present to an iconic structure in Queens.

The Hell Gate Bridge in Astoria will turn 100 years old on Sept. 30, and some argue that “the patchwork of pink, beige and brown” coating is unsightly and not representative of the historic bridge.

Congressman Joseph Crowley, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, state Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and Councilman Costa Constantinides sent a letter to Amtrak President Joseph H. Boardman to ask the agency for a makeover.

“September 30th of this year will mark the centennial anniversary of the bridge’s completion, and it is our sincerest hope that the structure will enter into the next hundred years of its life in a fashion befitting its status,” the letter read.

The bridge has not been repainted since the 1990s but is projected to structurally last 1,000 years, more than three times the estimated lifespan of other bridges, according to Discover magazine.

It was designed by Gustav Lindenthal and Henry Hornbostel and was the inspiration behind the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia. The 1,017-foot structure was even targeted by Nazi forces during World War II before U.S. shore patrols detected the Germans and stopped the attack.

Though the bridge is owned and operated by Amtrak, companies such as CSX Corperation, Canadian Pacific, Providence & Worcester Railroad and New York and Atlantic use the bridge. Metro-North Railroad in conjunction with NJ Transit runs a Train to the Game service that transports football fans to New York Jets and Giants games at MetLife Stadium using the bridge.

Elected officials argued in the letter that a fresh coat of paint is “long overdue” for a structure with “cultural, historical and architectural significance.”

“Given the significance of this year in the history of the bridge, and Queens’s burgeoning identity as a premier tourist destination, we believe that the time is right to turn Hell Gate into another jewel adorning New York City’s waterfront,” the letter read.

According to Amtrak spokesperson Craig Schulz, the bridge was last painted in 1996 to protect the steel.

“While the paint that was applied to the main span in 1996 has discolored, the judgment of the Amtrak Engineering Department is that the paint still provides adequate protection of the steel and is preventing structure deterioration,” Schulz said. “The current condition of the paint will allow it to continue providing that level of protection for some years to come.”