Good morning. Today is Wednesday. We would say happy birthday to someone who said the Brooklyn Bridge was and still is a symbol of progress and optimism.
In many ways, it’s still independent. It’s a bridge that many New Yorkers cross every day. It is a bridge on the must-see list for tourists.it’s a bridge, yes the theme Historian David McCullough’s bestseller in the 1970s and filmmaker Ken Burns’ first documentary in the 1980s.On this anniversary, Burns kept his camera rolling as he walked the bridge Michael Kimmelman, architecture critic for The New York Timesfor A short video from the Burns website UNUM. Michael and I spoke about the bridge and its place in the city and our lives.
I read an article the other day that in the 1880s New York was slowly moving towards its new role as a world-class city. The bridge certainly helps it to be both symbolic and literal, doesn’t it?
one hundred percent. The bridge is a great symbol of 19th-century progress and optimism, not just for New York, but for America as a whole. This is a time we now forget, a remarkable time of change and connection. You have the Transcontinental Railroad. You have transoceanic cables. You have the Suez Canal. All of these were built around the same time. We are shrinking the world.
In New York itself, the bridge connects the two separate cities of Brooklyn and New York in hopes of becoming one great city. It is this bridge that provides another easier and quicker way to get from Brooklyn to NYC when the only way before was by boat which is often difficult in winter and apparently difficult in bad weather .
But the bridge does something else. It creates a public street, a huge public plaza in the sky, and this huge road connects the two. Suddenly they became one. That’s a big reason why the bridge remains our great civic symbol of hope and possibility.
Also, the Brooklyn Bridge was bigger than anything else at the time.
The scale of this bridge is unimaginable in the United States. It’s like a 13th-century Gothic cathedral, so impossibly massive and seemingly impossible that it has an otherworldly feel to it.
You have to imagine that the person walking on this bridge is at heights that no one has ever reached in this part of the world. They suddenly came to a mountain built in the middle of the river, looking down at the birds flying under their feet. It’s a pretty big thing, one that redefines the city’s ambitions for the next century.
There’s a sequence in that movie that’s probably from the 70s or 80s, where the towers are perfectly framed above and behind. The setting is everything New York stands for—old New York represented by the bridge, and the skyscrapers rising from the bridge.
When you describe it with the twin towers as the background, the twin towers are also towering into the sky. Now, when skyscrapers go up, they always meet with great hostility, as cities grow too large, beyond human scale. There is no sense of awe and wonder.
When the bridge opened, there was unprecedented celebration in New York. It really represents the dreams of New York and the dreams of the 19th century.
Right now we lack that — I don’t know if you’d call it optimism, but that sense of the future.
However, what’s interesting about this particular juxtaposition between the Twin Towers and the Brooklyn Bridge is that the bridge is an incredible marriage of state-of-the-art engineering and these Gothic towers, which represent tradition , spirit and art.
this is engineering and Art.
Yes, exactly. This is what Roeblings set out to create from the start, not just a tried and tested piece of engineering. This is a work of art that has stood the test of time. That’s what you still see. You still think the Brooklyn Bridge is timeless and awesome.
Its presence is unlike anywhere else in New York City, which is why it is packed with people going there every day, just like going to Notre Dame, Chartres or Westminster. It looks like you’re touching something much bigger than yourself. It’s not like it’s just an infrastructure.
But perhaps its most important aspect is that it’s an open space for everyone.
From the moment it opens, anyone can walk on that bridge.
It is not limited by class or race. In my opinion, this is a project that serves the people, really serves the people.
It lasted. It endured.
Yes. I mean, we rebuilt LaGuardia, which is an amazing feat. It would be awesome to do this when the airport is open, and it’s definitely even better. But the Brooklyn Bridge will still be remembered a thousand years from now. I don’t think LaGuardia’s renovations will be remembered in a thousand years.
That’s not against LaGuardia’s renovation. But it’s hard to imagine the last time we actually did something as ambitious or as transformative or huge as this bridge in New York or America.
So immediately the bridge became part of the city, and from generation to generation since, it’s part of what the city itself means and what it means for whatever has to be considered.
When Burns made the film 40 years ago, New York was in dilapidation, and the bridge is a reminder of what the city once was.
What was then said about the bridge was a belief in a struggling city.
The city is completely different now, and the problems are completely different. This is an unaffordable place. We are facing a climate problem. We have a huge homelessness problem.
But the bridge still feels reassuring — about our ability as a city to strive to achieve the great, the impossible.
140 years later, it’s truly remarkable that it continues to play this role in our lives, reminding us of what we’re capable of – and maybe that’s a thrill too. I like to think of it that way. In a city where we often feel overwhelmed or devastated, this bridge is a place that makes us think deep inside New York, a place of dreams and aspirations.
I took my youngest son the other day. He was a little skeptical – it was a Sunday morning, like why we got up early to do this. But I could see even a hard-nosed New Yorker like him saying, “Wow, that’s cool” when we got to the middle of the bridge with an open view.
Enjoyed a sunny day with temperatures approaching 74 degrees and a light breeze. In the evening, early showers are possible before turning cloudy with a low around 52 degrees.
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Valid until Friday (Pentecost).
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My hair is now silver instead of dark brown and I no longer call myself middle aged. But I do try to stay healthy and active, and I don’t feel like the years have affected me too much.
One day, I was leaving my home, a Federal-style red brick rowhouse in a downtown Brooklyn neighborhood, when I came across a woman standing on the sidewalk looking at the house.
“It’s a lovely house,” she said. “I always notice it when I pass by.”
We talked for a while about the house and its history.
“It’s almost 200 years old,” I explained.
“Wow!” the woman replied. “You are the original owner?”
— Laura McCallum
Pictured is Agnes Lee. send submission here and Read more Urban Diaries here.