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The Kosciuszko Bridge, connecting Brooklyn and Queens, was erected in an era marked by industrial innovation, ambitious public works projects and historic public mobilizations.
The original Kosciuszko Bridge, carrying the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway over Newtown Creek in New York City, is no more.
On Sunday in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood, the hulking modern-age miracle of industrial construction was brought down in a celebration of brilliant post-industrial deconstruction, when a long string of meticulously controlled explosions sent smoke-like offerings onto the air and millions of pounds of steel to the ground, completing a project years in the making.
The main spans of the old truss bridge were cut free and lowered to the ground with hydraulic jacks in July. Last week the bridge’s ramps were detonated. On Sunday the final millions of pounds were brought low to also be carted off and recycled.
“A Gray Puff, and the Old Kosciuszko Bridge Is No More” was the headline over a New York Times piece that read like wry, wistful poetry.
Early Sunday, when the last remnants of the old Kosciuszko Bridge — a despised hunk of steel that stitched Brooklyn and Queens together through 78 years of congestion and complaint — were brought down in a carefully controlled paroxysm of explosion… It was built for 10,000 cars a day and was forced to carry 180,000. It has already been replaced by the first of two spans of a graceful, gossamer crossing built in the new fashion of cable-stayed bridges that seem to hang suspended from the sky rather than stapled to the ground. New York State, which maintains the Kosciuszko, dismantled the main span of the old bridge in July, and for two months the approach ramps on both sides reached toward each other only to find a void. Last week, the ramps, each one about 1,500 feet long, were wired with a total of 944 bits of ordnance called line charges. The ground beneath them was piled with shock-absorbing sand… On a boat, the man in charge of [Sunday’s] detonation gave instructions to his crew: “Warm up your blasting machines,” then, a few seconds later, “Fire.” BoomBoomBoomBoomBoom. Twenty-two million pounds of steel dropped to the ground.
The old Kosciuszko formed a key section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, or BQE, and for all of its 80 years was the only bridge built over Newtown Creek that was not a drawbridge.
The bridge was both squat and soaring, an icon of its age, a powerful structure erected in an era marked by industrial innovation, ambitious public works projects and historic public mobilizations. The new “Meeker Avenue Bridge,” which it was called originally, opened in 1939 at a cost of $6 million to $13 million. It was renamed in 1940 after Nazi Germany attacked Poland and ignited World War II. Tadeusz Kosciuszko, was a Pole who served as a general on the side of the American colonies during the Revolutionary War.
John Tomasic is a journalist based in Seattle.