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What Is the Brooklyn Bridge?

By K. Kinsella
Updated Feb 01, 2024
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The Brooklyn Bridge is a suspension bridge situated in New York City in the United States. Built in the 19th century, the bridge crosses the East river and links the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan. The bridge serves a practical purpose for commuters in the city but has also become a popular tourist attraction with visitors to the city.

John Roebling was a German immigrant and engineer who designed the bridge. Work began on the bridge in 1869, and it was fourteen years before the bridge officially opened in 1883. Roebling died in 1869, just prior to the beginning of its construction, but his son Washington Roebling assumed control of the project after his death. Washington Roebling suffered an injury in 1870 that prevented him from taking an active part in the remainder of the construction process, so his wife Emily Warren Roebling oversaw the rest of the construction.

This project was organized by the New York Bridge Company, and the city of Brooklyn provided two thirds of the financing. Under the terms of the building contract, the company could charge pedestrians and people in vehicles who crossed the bridge. Tariffs were capped so that the bridge company could not make an annual profit of more than 15 percent. The kilometer long bridge was the first suspension bridge to use steel wire.

The Brooklyn Bridge opened to the public on May 24, 1883. City officials made the opening day a public holiday, and 150,300 people paid the 1-cent tariff to cross the bridge. When it first opened, the Brooklyn Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the bridge as a city landmark, and on the national level it was also designated as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. Prior to the construction of the bridge, Brooklyn had a population of just 400,000 while Manhattan was overcrowded, but the opening of the bridge enabled more people to move out of New York City and into Brooklyn without impacting their ability to get to work.

In 2007, inspectors from New York City found the Brooklyn Bridge to be in poor condition. While structurally sound, many parts of the bridge, including the ramps and decking, were found to be in need of repair. With funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and other organizations, work on the repairs got underway in 2010. As of 2011, city officials estimate that over 120,000 vehicles and 4,000 pedestrians cross the historic bridge on a daily basis.

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Discussion Comments
By BambooForest — On Dec 11, 2011

If you go walking on the Brooklyn Bridge today, there are some historical notices along it talking about the construction and general history. Actually, these days all of New York City seems to be full of historical markers and notices of events that happened in different places.

While I know that New York City is full of tourists, I never thought of it as a historical place until I got there. I thought of the city as a place where people went to shop, or see shows, or eat different types of foods. But it does have a lot more to offer than that.

By FernValley — On Dec 10, 2011

The Brooklyn Bridge was very interesting to me when I was in New York City this summer. It's full of tourists, of course, and there are people selling water and food all along it for crazy prices, but it did seem like a big meeting place of all sorts of tourists. There are walking tours, biking tours, people on skates and roller blades, people dressed for the weather and people who are wearing all kinds of clothes.

New York is full of all types of people, and I really saw that when I decided to walk across Brooklyn Bridge.

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