City inching closer to finally rebuilding 115-year-old Grand Street Bridge in Maspeth

Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech

The Grand Street Bridge on the Maspeth/Brooklyn border could be getting a contractor for a rebuild 16 years in the making.

Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano said the advisory board received an email notification on Jan. 22 that followed up to a request for proposals (RFP) put out in June looking for bids.

“It’s a very, very important project that we shall not give up on,” Giordano said. “It is an example of how cooperative one can be that people can stop and let another vehicle go by. I wish other drivers on other roads and bridges were as considerate these drivers are. We need more consideration on our roads and bridges.”

The Grand Street Bridge was originally built in 1903 and 227 feet across, but at a 19 foot, 7 inch width, cars and trucks generally need wait for other vehicles already making the crossing to pass before taking the road despite it being two lanes.

CB5 never gave up the fight for the 115 year old bridge to be rebuilt to suit the needs of the businesses who operate along Newtown Creek, such as the nearby concrete plant on the south side of the thoroughfare.

“Grand Street Bridge update: DOT will be securing a firm within the next 90 days,” the email said on Jan. 22.

But since DOT released a Request for Proposals (RFP) in June, CB5 found that their effort, very much still alive, to have the bridge replaced may finally come to fruition and to the specifications they had wanted.

According to the RFP, the controls are antiquated, fender system has degenerated and the some of the structural members are not up to the task of carrying the loads required of the bridge.

The concrete plant on the south side of the Grand Street Bridge. Photo: Mark Hallum/QNS

Extremely busy in its early years, the Grand Street Bridge opened for passing boats 5,000 times in 1918, but the RFP said it has not been raised at all since 2012, about the time some damage was sustained during Superstorm Sandy, though it is not certain if that is the reason why.

Giordano said DOT at first planned to build fixed-span bridge, but arguments were made from the community board to replace the structure with one that will raise up to continue to meet the needs of commerce in the area.

A meeting between CB5 in 2002 and the then-director of Movable Bridges for DOT showed that the Grand Street Bridge was “barely” turned (the bridge swivels on a concrete pedestal when boat traffic needs to pass), and funds were allocated for a possible rebuild in 2006. This new bridge would be 24 to 26 feet wide with sidewalks.

Coast Guard was expected to review plans from the bridge, but it was suggested in 2002 that a new fixed bridge be constructed with enough clearance for ships to pass.

Existing height between the water and the bridge is about 9 feet, however high tide is the only time when ships can pass beneath since the water becomes too shallow during low tide, Giordano said.

But the RFP released in June calls for a movable bridge that will protect the structural and electrical components from the elements while ensuring a 75-year lifespan.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration will be paying for the scope of the job under the RFP which will start in June 2019 and end in 2026.

In 2015, Sandy related repairs were made to the bridge’s mechanical and electrical systems by DOT and in years prior they had completed some resurfacing of sidewalks and roadways, CB5 records showed.

The bridge was also closed multiple times in 2017 for different types of repair work.

On two occasions in September and October 2018, the bridge was completely closed for repairs to the steel grating. Diagonal bracing work also shut down the bridge recently.