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Reflections 2011
Series 1
January 20
The Consolidation of New York City

 

Waterway-Caused Divisions   I found it a heady experience--and a new one for me and, I’m sure, many others--to follow the iterations of the Hudson River over the millennia, and, secondarily, the East River, as they both developed over a long period of time the many waterways, and islands, of New York Harbor. But these two major waterways continue to divide the region in ways perhaps not apparent to outsiders. Let’s look again at this satellite image of the New York region, which is turned with the view to the northwest. The Hudson is obvious coming down from the north, the route through the Narrows and between Sandy Hook and the Rockaway Peninsula then continuing to divide the region into what I called earlier Hudson West and Hudson East. Given the narrow width of Arthur Kill and Kill Van Kull, Staten Island clings to New Jersey (“SI-NJ”), and the two form what I call Hudson West. The East River extends into Long Island Sound (“ER-LIS”) forming a secondary, internal subdivision of Hudson East into the Manhattan Prong (“Mprong”), very evident here, and Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island (“B-Q-LI”). The narrow sliver of the Harlem River does divide Manhattan Island from the rest of the MProng, but it hardly seems to, and is not overly significant. This second image of the area even more clearly shows the obvious Y-shape of these two waterways. Our alphabet-soup summary is that the Hudson separates the region into the West Hudson (SI-NJ) and East Hudson, and the ER-LIS further subdivides the East Hudson into the Mprong and B-Q-LI. It must be noted that, between West and East, it’s Hudson East that has significant cachet.

 
 

As the satellite image shows, everything today--for better or for worse--blends together into one whole, a megalopolis. However, it is my intention to show that these divisions around the Y of the waterways have always caused physical and psychological separation from each other in several ways, most notably transportation, something that even modern bridges and tunnels have not totally overcome.

 
 

One will be tempted to point out that most rivers in cities cause divisions, and that is true. But the difference is width, which affects walkability. The Seine divides Paris, and the Rive Gauche/Left Bank is traditionally a more Bohemian quarter than the Rive Droite/Right Bank, the side with cachet. But anyone living on the Rive Gauche can quire easily walk across a bridge to the other side to buy a newspaper, and then come back, since it’s only the equivalent of a couple of blocks away. Furthermore, a bridge like the Pont des Arts is purely for pedestrians, and, from personal experience, makes a pleasant walk. The same goes for London, whose Thames bridges are walkable, especially the new pedestrian bridge, the Millennium Bridge, another pleasant walk. (In London as well, the north side of the river [City, Westminster] is the side with more cachet than the south [Southwark]).

 
 

The only city area that comes to mind that is similar to the New York area in its physical and psychological differences of its divisions (curiously, also tripartite) is the San Francisco Bay Area. As in New York, the waterways there separate west from east (San Francisco Bay) with a secondary subdivision (the strait known as the Golden Gate) separating the west side, which, opposite to New York, is the side with cachet. We have on the west side of the Bay San Francisco proper (urban cachet) to the south and Marin County to the north (suburban cachet), as opposed to Oakland (blue collar) across the Bay. Nobody walks across those bridges to buy a newspaper and come back, either. Actually, the east-west divisions in San Francisco are more pronounced than in the New York area, but the concept is the same.

 
 

In the New York area, the only bridges normally walkable are across the Harlem River. There are some dozen-and-a-half crossings of that river, both vehicular bridges (one with an el), and subway tunnels. One could logically walk across one of those bridges on an errand. But no one walks across the Hudson crossings or the East River crossings on an errand. (You can’t in the tunnels and it’s not practical on the bridges because of size.) There is, of course, one notable exception. Everyone wants to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, but not to bring a container of milk back home. I’ve done it three times, as a teenager, once to show Beverly, and again last summer, always Manhattan-bound, for the better views. Given the fame of this particular walk, one should not be surprised as to the international nature of the crowds doing the walk on a fine summer’s day.

 
 

Consolidation of 1898   But despite these natural waterway divisions of the region, New York did in 1898 what San Francisco never did. It assembled disparate sections from the three regions and formed the five boroughs of the City of Greater New York. Ask most people, including, sadly, locals, and they’ll know little to nothing about that, and that despite the centennial in 1998. The region remains a hodgepodge of waterways and islands, with five of its land areas put together into boroughs that were “always there” in the minds of locals as it certainly does in the minds of visitors (I disparage the word “tourists” as insulting). But people who think about it at all see today’s city as five “equal” boroughs, which is a necessary political fantasy. This city started as two world cities facing each other across the Lower East River, the City of New York (Manhattan), with its natural hinterland, the Bronx, and the City of Brooklyn (for most of the 19C, the third largest in the US) with its natural hinterland, Queens. The Bronx and Queens face each other across the Upper East River. These four close-knit locations form the core of the consolidated city. To this was added, almost as an afterthought, distant Staten Island, probably because it was a part of New York State that would have otherwise been isolated between NJ and NYC.

 
 

Much of the area, especially the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island, consisted of villages, with farmland in between. In the 20C open spaces filled in to today’s endless conformity, but the lower half of Manhattan and the northwest corner of Brooklyn remain the historical centers, and there’s plenty of architecture to prove it, as well as parks and museums. Even the location of the Brooklyn Bridge, built to connect the two city halls, proves it.

 
 

I suppose it was all for the best in the long run, but I wonder how it would have worked if consolidation had gone differently, with each of the two cities expanding on its own. Let’s see what happened, and what might have happened.

 
 

WEST HUDSON (SI-NJ) In the West Hudson region, New Jersey is known for lack of consolidation. It was recently in the Times that there are so many tiny jurisdictions in New Jersey that money is being wasted by the bushelful. The state is trying to consolidate what it can, but it’s slow going. Of course, Staten Island serves as a natural extension of New Jersey (“no one” even knows it was connected to Brooklyn six millennia ago). Much of its transportation and business is connected with New Jersey, to which it’s connected by three bridges (and to Brooklyn by one)

 
 

EAST HUDSON As for the East Hudson region, this is the heart of the city, with four boroughs face-to-face across the East River. Yet I can almost guarantee you that you will find NO New Yorker who is aware that two of those boroughs resulted from splitting up two counties into two parts each.

 
 

EAST HUDSON: MPRONG This region, the Manhattan Prong, goes from Manhattan to the Bronx, and on to suburban Westchester County, then beyond to the north and northeast. The natural hinterland of pre-1898 New York (Manhattan) was always to the north, the way all travel routes went. When the New York overflowed New York County across the Harlem River, it continued building in what was THEN the lower part of Westchester County. That will be a surprise to many. Look at this (very) old map of Westchester County. Although it dates from 1839, it shows what we need to see. Westchester County, until the 1898 consolidation, was what faced Manhattan across the Harlem River. With consolidation, the lower part of Westchester, roughly the part in yellow plus a bit more, was taken to form the new Bronx County at the time of the consolidation, as well as the new Borough of the Bronx. Thus the older name of Westchester was retained by the part outside the new city limits. This gave some anomalies. Nobody wonders today why Westchester Square and Westchester Avenue are not in Westchester, but in the Bronx. People rarely think twice that avenues such as Manhattan’s Third Avenue continue into the Bronx, or that Manhattan’s higher street numbers, such as 138th Street, continue into the Bronx as well.

 
 

Perhaps without the 1898 consolidation and division of Westchester, New York might have continued expanding even further north into Westchester, to incorporate Yonkers, even the then small village of White Plains! Impossible? Consider this. A main road in Westchester running south from White Plains to the city line is commonly called Central Avenue. Everyone avoids using its actual name that shows up on street signs, Central Park Avenue. Even when they do, people still might not see what’s being referred to. But Central Park Avenue was laid out to run beyond today’s Westchester right down to Central Park in Manhattan. With a main road already in place expansion north to White Plains was not an impossibility, but it never happened. Nevertheless, the Bronx, now its own borough, was at the time merely the hinterland of the pre-1898 City of New York (Manhattan).

 
 

EAST HUDSON: B-Q-LI Geographic Long Island is usually referred to as Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island, the term referring to the two counties outside city limits, Nassau and Suffolk. As pre-1898 New York (Manhattan) had its natural hinterland to the north, once Brooklyn expanded to fill Kings County, I maintain that neighboring Queens county was Brooklyn’s natural hinterland. If late 19C urban expansion had continued (but excluding the 1898 consolidation), I don’t see how Brooklyn would have expanded beyond its own county otherwise than into Queens. To this day the land border between Brooklyn and Queens is the largest land border in the city, which would have been easily breached.

 
 

But there’s a surprise here, too. Pre-1898 Queens was larger than it is today, as can be seen in this 1891 map of Queens (only seven years before consolidation). With consolidation, the three eastern townships (except for the Rockaway Peninsula), became the new Nassau County, while the part that joined in the consolidation (note in particular Jamaica, Flushing, and Long Island City) retained the original name of Queens County (and Queens Borough), which was the opposite of what happened in Westchester.

 
 

If Brooklyn HAD expanded into (today’s) Queens, its natural hinterland, why mightn’t it have continued expanding into the part of Queens that later became Nassau County? It’s not impossible. Settlers have always moved naturally eastward from Brooklyn, and today, Nassau has the community of Lynbrook, settled and named by Brooklynites in the early 20C. The name “Lynbook” is formed from the transposed syllables of “Brooklyn”. So you think Brooklyn didn’t have thoughts of expansion east?

 
 

To restate my feelings, the 1898 consolidation took the City of New York (Manhattan), plus its hinterland, which became the Bronx, and joined it with the City of Brooklyn, plus its hinterland, today’s Queens. As an afterthought, Staten Island was added in, which has always remained problematic, since it still considers itself the “forgotten borough”. Parts of each region were connected into a cohesive entity rather than having the two cities expand, one north, one east.

 
 

Authentic, Contemporary Urbanized Areas   Both locals and visitors today look across the region and, with the exception of parks and cemeteries, see continuous, non-stop urbanization. But it would behoove us, to get a better understanding, to see just what the boroughs were in 1898 that joined together. It was not a matter then of border-to-border built-up areas, nor were there many fixed connections, such as bridges and tunnels. It is highly revealing.

 
 

We start with a 1906 map of New York and vicinity. (You must click to enlarge it or you will see nothing.) This was only eight years after consolidation, so it gives an excellent idea of what it was that joined together.

 
 

In the Hudson West area (SI-NJ), New Jersey surprises how separated the individual towns are, rather than running together as they do today (as in the whole region). For future reference, notice how close Newark is to Manhattan, and notice how urbanized Jersey City already is on Bergen Neck across from Manhattan. It is already the location of numerous rail terminals facing the Hudson, to be discussed later. Staten Island still has no vehicular bridges connecting it anywhere, and itself is highly rural, with many open areas. The Staten Island Railroad is already in place, running from the ferry terminal in Saint George in the NE to Tottenville in the SW.

 
 

As for Hudson East (Mprong), the Manhattan street grid is largely laid out, although in reality, the population is heavily centered in the lower third of the island, and farmland is typical north of that. Manhattan hugs the Bronx closely, which has already been separated from the rest of Westchester County above it. Manhattan streets have already been extended across the Harlem River to the Bronx, but are concentrated in the more populous west, near Manhattan, while the rest is still heavily open land. The former village of Westchester, today’s Westchester Square, is already out of place in the Bronx, based on its name. Westchester proper is also very sparsely settled. For future reference, note the rail line hugging the Hudson, the one near the Sound, and the one in the center reaching still tiny White Plains, and beyond. Central (Park) Avenue runs south from White Plains to this day immediately to the west of this rail line.

 
 

Regarding B-Q-LI, you will see that in 1906, urbanized Brooklyn is still concentrated in the northwest of Kings County. The former City of Brooklyn had already taken over the former City of Williamsburg to its north, as well as other Kings County municipalities, but much of the southeast was still open farmland. In the center of Queens, Jamaica has already become the major rail hub it still is, but there are wide open spaces up to Flushing (Dutch Vlissingen) and Long Island City. (Jamaica is named after the Jameco tribe, and has nothing to do with the Caribbean island.) If you look over into Nassau County, to the south, you’ll see that Lynbrook isn’t so far from Brooklyn. While I’ve added a lot to my personal knowledge of the region with this research, it’s particularly the case in this area, which is where I grew up.

 
 

Let me first say that Staten Island is the only borough I’ve never lived in. I now live in Manhattan, and Beverly and I had our first home in the north Bronx, in the center, almost on the city line. (We also lived in two places in Westchester.) But I grew up in Brooklyn and Queens, and new information gleaned about these places was most revealing to me. We will discuss in the near future the importance of three Brooklyn streets, Jamaica Avenue, Fulton Street, and Atlantic Avenue (with its rail line), and how they follow the Ronkonkoma Moraine west to east. You can follow on this map the route of these streets and rail line from downtown Brooklyn to Jamaica and beyond, and I never really realized their importance, or even how they lined up so neatly. Near the west end of these routes is Atlantic Terminal of the LIRR, and my high school, Brooklyn Tech, is walkable from that. Before looking at this map, I never realized the extent to which Brooklyn quickly expanded east into East New York, which is where I grew up in three different locations. Notice the joining of many routes there at an opening in the moraine, originally known as the Jamaica Pass, later as Broadway Junction. At the north end of East New York you can see on the map the reservoir in Highland Park, on whose south-facing slopes we often picnicked. I now see that these slopes are there because of the moraine. As a teenager, I moved with my family to Queens, to a house in Hollis. I knew the rail line was near, but only on this map can you see how the street and rail routes extend from East New York beyond Jamaica to Hollis. These three streets and that rail line are a major chapter in the development of the area, and I never realized their importance till now, nor just how these places important to me all line up so neatly in a straight line. Everything on this entire map is today continuous urbanization, which is not conducive to seeing the various roots from which the area grew.

 
 

This last, very revealing map shows a larger area, but closer details about the center of things around Upper New York Bay are better revealed on this 1910 map, which is just twelve years after consolidation. (Click to enlarge.)

 
 

Start at the lower left-hand corner. Note the proliferation of ferries on all waterways, but particularly on the wide Hudson. Bridges and rail tunnels had just barely started to appear, which would cause a severe decline in ferries for many years, which is only in recent decades would begin to revive again. Note the several rail stations on the riverbank in NJ, which we’ll discuss more later. In brief, this is the way one reached the city from the west.

 
 

Note all the piers on the Hudson, and also on the East River. They are today almost all gone, due to containerization. The big port area in the Port of New York and New Jersey is in NJ, near the Kills and Newark Bay. Once again, easy rail (and road) connections is a major factor here. In Lower Manhattan, as I reported in 2008/8, Battery Park City is located on landfill replacing the lowest numbered piers on this map, and my building is at about what was piers 7-8-9.

 
 

We said at this time the Manhattan population was concentrated in the lowest third of the island. Follow Broadway north and note that, due to lack of importance in this period, Times Square, above 42nd Street, is not even shown.

 
 

Also note the momentous change in this year of 1910, to be discussed later. The Pennsylvania Railroad built its tunnel under the Hudson, opened Pennsylvania (“Penn”) Station, and continued with a tunnel under the East River to Queens, and on to the Bronx and north.

 
 

On the lower East River, at this point in time the Williamsburg Bridge (1903) had already been added to the 1883 Brooklyn Bridge that connected the hearts of the two former cities. In Brooklyn, note also Fulton Street next to the bridge and Atlantic Avenue further south, including the rail station. These streets, each in its own way, built the backbone of Brooklyn running east.

 
 

Physical Gulfs   I now return to my original hypothesis, that there remain to this day--and always will remain--major physical and psychological gulfs between the two sides of the Hudson, and, then a secondary division between the two sides of the East River. For instance, the Hudson is a major obstacle to water supply. When the Croton Reservoir on the east side of the Hudson Valley supplying NYC water became inadequate, the watershed of the upper reaches of the Delaware River in New York State had to be tapped into, as mentioned earlier. Bringing water such a long distance is a problem anywhere, but those aqueducts had to then be built to bring water via tunnels under the Hudson, a major undertaking. And I only read recently in the Times about the news of the electrical power grid. NYC depends heavily on its connections to the grid on the east side of the Hudson, but connection to the grid on the west side is desirable in case of blackouts, and trying to find a location in the Hudson Valley where huge power lines over the Hudson wouldn’t raise an environmental outcry is a major problem.

 
 

But the major gulfs involve transportation, particularly across the Hudson, but also across the East River/LI Sound division. They are THERE, and we are HERE. How do we get people across? How do we get goods across? Discussing early NYC trails, sails, and rails will be an upcoming undertaking. For now, let me illustrate by personal recollections.

 
 

EAST HUDSON: B-Q-LI TO WEST HUDSON My maternal grandparents and other family members are buried in a Russian Orthodox cemetery in central New Jersey, one that, since 1934, had adjacent to it the ROVA Farms Resort and Russian restaurant, run by a Russian immigrant fraternal organization. Starting in my teenage years our family would take all-day car trips, at least yearly, from East New York. I’ll describe the trip to illustrate what an undertaking it was. We would drive from ENY to what was then Brooklyn’s 69th Street Ferry to St George in Staten Island, with long waits to drive onto the ferry, then drive diagonally on regular roads to the bridge called the Outerbridge Crossing in SW SI to NJ, and then on to ROVA Farms. Today the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and some partial freeways in SI make the ordeal a bit easier, but not much. (This connection cannot be made by rail.)

 
 

EAST HUDSON: B-Q-LI VIA EAST HUDSON: MPRONG TO WEST HUDSON Once we tried going by way of Manhattan: from ENY over the Williamsburg Bridge, driving slowly the full length of Canal Street in Manhattan to the Holland Tunnel to NJ, and then south, but it was worse, and there would be no improvement in the time to take this route today. Thus is daily life affected by the separation caused by the waterways. (This route can be made by rail: LIRR via Penn Station to NJ Transit, but there still are no through trains, and you’d still need a car for the last leg in NJ.)

 
 

EAST HUDSON: B-Q-LI TO EAST HUDSON: MPRONG Crossing the Lower East River today (between Brooklyn/Queens and Manhattan) is easy by subway or LIRR; when driving you need planning and patience for traffic at bridge and tunnel bottlenecks, but it’s doable. Crossing the Upper East River (between Queens and the Bronx) is impossible by subway, since none exist; no rail connection exists (although there is the Amtrak long-distance through route); there is one Queens-Bronx city bus line over a bridge, with limited service. I remember when as teenagers those of us who had passed the special entrance exams we were signing up for the specialized high schools, someone in Queens who wanted to go to the Bronx High School of Science had to be content with taking a subway first west into Manhattan and then another north to the Bronx, a long trip.

 
 

Available to vehicular traffic are three bridges between Queens and the Bronx, the easternmost one being the Throgs Neck Bridge that was visible on Carter’s video (2010/26). But that’s the last fixed crossing of the East River/LI Sound complex (although there’s a mid-island ferry and one at Orient Point). This means that any motorist in central LI wanting to go to central Connecticut has to come westward to the Throgs Neck Bridge and then return eastward. Again, the waterways do a thorough job of separating areas.

 
 

Psychological Gulfs   Without a doubt the greater psychological division is caused by the Hudson dividing the region into West Hudson and East Hudson. The secondary subdivision of the East Hudson area caused by the East River/LI Sound is far less significant.

 
 

This psychological gulf is famously illustrated by one of the best-known magazine covers ever, the New Yorker cover of March 19, 1976. It was one of 85 covers drawn for the New Yorker by Saul Steinberg and arguably his most famous work: View of the World from Ninth Avenue. This copy is small, so you can try this larger, but more tenuous link to View of the World from Ninth Avenue.

 
 

This is what we see. In the foreground are Manhattan’s westernmost avenues, starting with Ninth. Across the Hudson is a rectangle representing the contiguous 48 states, bordered, almost as an afterthought, by Canada and Mexico. Aside from a few boulders and some shrubbery, only the states of Texas, Utah, and Nebraska are indicated, just by name, not location, in addition to the mild deference given to New Jersey in the foreground. The cities of Chicago, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Washington DC are also indicated, although the latter is shown vaguely bordering Mexico. Beyond the Pacific lie China, Japan, and Russia.

 
 

Two size aspects should be noted. The distance from Jersey to Los Angeles is considerably less than that from Ninth Avenue to the Hudson, but let’s attribute that to perspective. Much more significantly, the width of the Hudson is about 2/3 the width of the Pacific. It is the Hudson that separates “civilization”, with significant cachet, from the “provinces” and beyond, the gateway to which is “Jersey”.

 
 

It is, of course, satire, purporting to indicate a parochial, telescoped interpretation of New Yorkers’ limited mental geography. It humorously depicts a self-centered self-image of place--or an outsider’s view of New York’s self-image. Added to that self-centered image is the depiction of the mascot of the New Yorker, the dandy Eustace Tilley, who appeared on the cover of the first edition in 1925 and appears annually on the anniversary issue.

 
 

The fame of the picture has spread. I’ve also seen in shops modified versions of Steinberg’s cover for various world cities, and The Economist in 2009 did an hommage called How China Sees the World, an eastward view from Beijing. Particularly interesting is the size of Canada and Latin America, and the fact that the only locations in Europe are labeled “Prada” and Hérmès”.

 
 

But it’s all an exaggeration. What I see as significant is that the New York view does NOT look eastward across the East River to Boston, say, and Halifax, and across the Atlantic to London and Paris. Why not? There’s no psychological gulf in that direction. It’s all “civilization from the east bank of the Hudson, via New England, to Europe! Now that’s still a ridiculous exaggeration for humorous purposes, but it does illustrate the division caused by the Hudson.

 
 

The cachet east of the Hudson in the core of New York City runs for a significant length to the north. While both sides of the Hudson Valley are beautiful, the only outstanding site on the west shore is the US Military Academy at West Point. It’s the east bank that has more cachet, and is the site of the Hudson River Historic District, the largest such district in the contiguous 48 states. It comprises some 40 estates built by wealthy families in the 19C. Also of note is FDR’s home, the home of Hudson River School painter Fredric Edwin Church, and so many more sites of interest, all on the east bank.

 
 

As with Oakland facing San Francisco, both NJ and SI, as beautiful and as interesting as they may be (and I’ll be talking about that in a later posting), they lack cachet. NJ tends to be the butt of jokes because of its industrial area not far from Manhattan, and because of a mob-related ethnic reputation. Staten Islanders, who themselves have called SI the forgotten borough, have always felt apart. SI, realizing its distance from the center, only agreed to join in 1898 once it was guaranteed in the City Charter that there would always be a ferry connection from Saint George to Manhattan. (This is fortunate, since the Staten Island Ferry, free today, is the delight of both locals and visitors alike.) Staten Island, with its low population and large size, has frequently tried to secede from New York City, unsuccessfully.

 
 

Note this as an indicator of the east-west gulf: repeatedly on TV cop shows, when an indignant citizen, often well-to-do, tries to browbeat a detective into submission by showing off his supposed importance, threatens that through connections, he’ll have the detective “walking a beat on Staten Island”. That’s a two-level threat. Bad enough is demotion from detective to a cop on the beat, but then that beat wouldn’t be “here” in the center of things, but “there” in the Siberia of Staten Island.

 
 

Names with Lost Commemorations   Finally, as a coda, let’s have a dash of language talk. In the past, we’ve talked about names that do not indicate clearly who or what is being commemorated. We mentioned that it’s not obvious that Minneapolis is named after Minnehaha and that most people do not realize that Christchurch NZ is named after a college at Oxford. Two fixed crossings come to mind in New York Harbor. It’s easy to tell who or what you’re talking about when you hear names like Queens-Midtown Tunnel, George Washington Bridge, or Bayonne Bridge. But two names will fool you.

 
 

HOLLAND TUNNEL There are two vehicular tunnels under the Hudson between Manhattan and New Jersey. The Lincoln Tunnel of 1937 is a decade older than the Holland Tunnel of 1927. We know how the Lincoln Tunnel got its name and we assume the same about the Holland Tunnel. How nice to dedicate a tunnel to the original settlers of Manhattan! How history minded New Yorkers are!

 
 

Not at all. The tunnel was named after its chief engineer, Clifford Milburn Holland, who died midway during its construction at age 41 of a heart attack while undergoing a tonsillectomy. In commemoration, what was to be called the Hudson River Vehicular Tunnel was renamed the Holland Tunnel in his memory--but no one today can tell.

 
 

Another language quirk is that the name Holland Tunnel is a tongue twister. It’s awkward to say it once, let alone three times fast. Can you analyze what makes it a tongue twister?

 
 

The awkwardness comes from the fact that the first word has the sequence L + N and the second word has N + L. The natural tendency is to make the first word, in anticipation of the second word, sound just like it, with the result of *Honnel Tunnel.

 
 

OUTERBRIDGE CROSSING There is no doubt in my mind that the most romantic name of any bridge or tunnel in the harbor is that of the Outerbridge Crossing. It’s a bridge over Arthur Kill at almost the southwesternmost point of Staten Island, making it almost the southwesternmost point of the entire city--and state. How distant, how remote, “Outer” sounds in this context. Doesn’t it seem that the name means something like “Crossing [Arthur Kill] on a Distant Bridge”? What a charming image.

 
 

Sorry, no go. We’ve discussed in the past the Port Authority of NY and NJ. The bridge was named to honor its first President, whose name was--I kid you not--Eugenius Harvey Outerbridge. With a name like that, it would have been clumsy to have called it Outerbridge Bridge, hence the renaming to Outerbridge Crossing. But either way, it’s a failed dedication. As with Holland, no one knows it’s dedicated to a person.

 
 
 
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