Today, we visit the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge to mark the passing today of former New York Mayor Ed Koch. The bridge, which carries New York State Route 25 from Queens to its terminus in Manhattan at 2nd Avenue, is known locally at the “59th Street Bridge.” It’s actually over 100 years old, having opened in 1909.
The Queens side connects to a tangled nexus of ramps that are mixed up with elevated subway structures. And as these structures are all aging, they become interesting photographic subjects. The bridge was named in honor of the former mayor in 2010.
Here is cute video that has been circulating today, in which Mayor Koch welcomes passersby (including the current mayor) to “my bridge”. (You need only watch the segment until about 2:00)
It’s very typical of his style, being a larger-than-life character but also a bit self-deprecating. It is quintessentially “New York”. From the New York Times obituary:
…out among the people or facing a news media circus in the Blue Room at City Hall, he was a feisty, slippery egoist who could not be pinned down by questioners and who could outtalk anybody in the authentic voice of New York: as opinionated as a Flatbush cabby, as loud as the scrums on 42nd Street, as pugnacious as a West Side reform Democrat mother.
I did have the opportunity to meet him twice on visits back from Yale to New York City, as part of the Yale Political Union. Although my colleagues seemed to treat him rather coldly, I was quite happy for the experience.
Returning to San Francisco from New York often involves a highway trip to JFK Airport, and there is one spot along the Van Wyck Expressway (I-678) that is almost always guaranteed to come to standstill, the Kew Gardens Interchange:
The Van Wyck Expressway runs vertically in this picture, from the center top to the center bottom. The Grand Central Parkway runs from the upper left to the center right. The Jackie Robinson Parkway runs from the lower left to the interchange where it ends at the Grand Central Parkway. The Union Turnpike runs along either side of the parkway. Finally, the main surface thoroughfare through Queens, Queens Boulevard (NY 25) is in the lower left corner.
One doesn’t really see the complexity of this interchange from the road, just a series of exits in quick succession (or not so quick when one is barely moving), and in fact that it seems like the Van Wyck is merging into another, narrower road at the end, before the reassuring signs that one is still on the right road to the airport. It often seems like many of the larger highways in New York are really stitched together from older, smaller, highways.
I have been on the parkways as well of course. The Jackie Robinson Parkway winds its way narrowly towards Brookyln through parks and near several cemeteries. I have relatives who reside in at least one of them.