Something Missing: The Vernon Avenue Bridge

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    Everybody knows that the path to take when transiting from Hunters Point in Long Island City to Brooklyn’s Greenpoint and Williamsburg is the Pulaski Bridge. The bridge is of September 1954 vintage, it’s a double bascule drawbridge, and was erected under the supervision of NYC Commissioner of Public Works Frederick Zurmuhlen – who served under three mayors. The general contractor was the Horn Construction Company, with steel and expertise supplied by Bethlehem Steel. It connects LIC’s 11th Street (corner of Jackson Avenue) with McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint.

    Thing is, it’s in kind of a weird place on both sides of Newtown Creek, where the natural “Main Streets” are Manhattan Avenue in Brooklyn and Vernon Boulevard in LIC. Something’s missing, and that something is the seldom mentioned Vernon Avenue Bridge.

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    Included today is this helpful graphic, shot from the Pulaski Bridge, illustrating the abutments of the old bridge. Both are street ends today. In Brooklyn, one will find a park and in Queens, one finds an unofficial and increasingly populated ad hoc dock.

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    These boats are part of a group who call themselves “Hunters Point Boast Sanctuary” and before you ask, I have no real idea whether this is legal or not but they’ve been here for years now and nobody in a position of authority over the waterway seems to care much about their presence so there you go. I’ve been pretty vocal about the danger they’re putting themselves in (exposure to toxins and sewage in the water, etc.), but again, there you go. Welcome to Queens.

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    The 1882 version of the Vernon Avenue Bridge was a swing bridge not unlike the Grand Street Bridge found further up the Creek on Grand Street, as illustrated above. It was considered to be inadequate for the needs of the two independent municipalities (City of Brooklyn and LIC) and was removed to make way for a far stouter structure which also allowed for trolley traffic to make the crossing.

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    This postcard view was the last version of the Vernon Avenue Bridge, the one which was obliterated in the mid 1950’s when the Pulaski opened.

    The cameraman was stationed on the Queens side, by the way, which you can discern by the presence of the tugs of the Newtown Creek Towing Company docked in the lower left hand corner.

    In 1918, the Vernon Avenue Bridge allowed 2,241,465 vehicular crossings and some 168,630 trolley car trips between the two communities. The tracks of the G Subway line follow its path, under the Newtown Creek, in modernity. Vernon Avenue become Vernon Boulevard in the early 20th century, shortly after the consolidation of the City of Greater New York, when all the street names in LIC were altered and given their modern designations.

    Check out this 1891 map found at Wikipedia, which details the original nomenclature of Long Island City.

    Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman lives in Astoria and blogs at Newtown Pentacle.

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