A century ago, Queens was growing by leaps and bounds and exploding with brand new infrastructure, a spate of investment and building which was spurred on and started by the immense success of the 1909 Queensboro Bridge. The subways began to snake out from the great bridge in the 1920s, and expansions of the system continued right through the Depression era of the 1930s.
The IND Crosstown Line, which they called the GG back then (its was renamed the “G” in 1985), came to LIC’s 21st street/Van Alst, Court Square, and Queens Plaza stations on the 19th of August in 1933. Unfortunately, due to damage inflicted upon the tracks by Hurricane Sandy related flooding, there is no opportunity to visit these stations and tip a glass on their 81st birthday – currently – as MTA employees are working on repairing and upgrading the tracks, switches, signals and God knows what else there is down there. The Shuttle Bus just ain’t the same, I’m afraid, but it is appreciated.
This is the Kosciuszko Bridge, which carries the Brooklyn Queens Expressway over my beloved Newtown Creek, and on Saturday she’ll be 75.
In 1939, during the Great Depression, one of the most powerful men in New York City was Robert Moses. Moses had a project he was keen on, which he called the Brooklyn Queens Connecting Highway. The bridge, and highway, were promised to offer egress to the 1939 World’s Fair in what we now call Flushing Meadows Corona Park for the multitudes of Brooklyn, and was a showpiece project for the Great Builder.
The New Meeker Avenue Bridge opened on August 23, 1939. It was the first link in a chain that eventually became the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.
American Bridge Company and Bethlehem Steel worked on it, along with dozens of other contractors. The Big K was part of what was known as the Regional Plan, which also provided the pretext for the erection of the Triborough, Whitestone, Marine Parkway and a slew of other bridges across the archipelago.
August 23rd, 1939, image New York City Municipal Archives at nycma.lunaimaging.com, Photo by Arthur J. Foley
The Little Flower cut the ribbon, and officially opened the “New Meeker Avenue Bridge” to traffic. The following April in 1940, it was renamed as the Kosciuszko Bridge so as to make nice with the enormous Polish populations of Greenpoint and Maspeth.
According to the Long Island City Star-Journal of August 24th, 1939, the lineup of folks in the shot and action above are described as:
Mayor LaGuardia snips the ribbon which admitted the first autos lo use the lofty new Meeker Avenue Bridge over Newtown Creek in Laurel Hill, at the dedication held yesterday at Laurel Hill Plaza. To the right of the mayor is Acting Borough President John J. Halloran of Queens. To his left is Borough President Raymond V. Ingersoll of Brooklyn. Left of Ingersoll is Frederick J. H. Kracke, who was commissioner of Plant and Structures when that department originated plans for the bridge.
Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman lives in Astoria and blogs at Newtown Pentacle.