The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Thrice Damned?

with 6 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Several emails arrived today inquiring into why, in yesterday’s posting, the Kosciuszko Bridge is referred to as “thrice damned”. We’ll get into that shortly, but first- a certain anomaly of the information age needs to be mentioned…


The association, which handles many of the city’s largest projects, pored through an annual report that the New York State Department of Transportation released earlier this year to develop its list. Researchers looked at the city’s bridges and freeways that were given “red flags” — for everything from weak columns to uneven pavement — to compile the list, which included only those operated by the state.

The association announced the following rankings:

    • Kosciuszko Bridge
    • Gowanus Expressway
    • Bronx River Parkway over the Amtrak tracks
    • Cross Bronx Expressway viaduct over the Amtrak tracks and the Sheridan Expressway
    • Bronx Terminal viaduct carrying the Major Deegan Expressway by Yankee Stadium
    • Major Deegan Expressway over Sedgwick Avenue and the Metro-North Railroad tracks
    • Bruckner Expressway Service road, northbound
    • Bruckner Boulevard viaduct1
    • 50th Street over the Belt Parkway
    • Major Deegan Expressway ramp to 153rd Street/Cromwell Avenue, southbound

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In 1939, during the Great Depression, arguably the most powerful man in New York City was Robert Moses. Moses had a project he was keen on, the Brooklyn Queens Connecting Highway.

The Meeker Avenue Bridge opened on August 23rd, 1939 (renamed in 1940 as The Kosciuszko Bridge) – some 24,855 days ago- and it was the first link in a chain that eventually metastasized into the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. It was promised to allow easy egress to the World’s Fair, and was a showpiece project for the Great Builder.

Yet, it seems not to have any fanfare associated with it according to online sources…

Q- Who designed it? How long was it under construction? Thinking about the chain of supply, where did the steel come from and how did it get here? Where are the City records? Surely this project was reported on, why doesn’t the NY Times or Brooklyn Daily Eagle have multiple stories in archives about it and attendant scandals?

A- Certain terms, called “tags” or “keywords” attached to every web page allow search engines to classify the content of any given web page. A sort of echo effect forms around these tags, a scalar which wipes out all other interpretations of search terms. The Kosciuszko Bridge is caught up in one of these echo effects, which has caused all other results to be crowded out. The echo surrounding “The Kosciuszko Bridge” search term at the Big G is formed by three or four modern sources and swirls about the replacement of it. This is kind of disturbing…

Andrew Carnegie’s American Bridge Company was the contractor, incidentally.


The Kosciuszko Bridge in Brooklyn received 20 yellow flags for corrosion and decay of steel beams and small cracks in beams and welds. The bridge also received eight safety flags for problems that included exposed electrical wires and loose concrete.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is mentioned, as it has raised certain misgivings in me about the future of verity and truth. If something like The Kosciuszko Bridge can lose its past and be defined only by its destruction, just how malleable has the historical record become in the age of the Big G? Can a skillful manipulation of Wikipedia or some other major “site of authority” change the past?

Just wondering…

Now- the “thrice damned” part

Damned Once- The Kosciuszko Bridge catches radio frequency emissions from several nearby commercial radio broadcast antennas. A lot of it.

Whatever knows fear burns at The Kosciuszko Bridge’s touch.

Damned Twice- The Kosciuszko Bridge is at extreme risk in the eventuality of a seismic event. The Brooklyn pier actually sits on the Creek bed, some 6 meters below grade, but the Queens side is anchored on piles driven into the mud. The hard soil around Queens Plaza will merely shake, but the land surrounding the Newtown Creek will liquify.

Damned Thrice- The Kosciuszko Bridge once had pedestrian walkways, but they were removed in 1961. Can you imagine what kind of photos would be possible on a pedestrian walkway 124 feet over the Newtown Creek?


But the department has bigger fish to fry than the aesthetics — drivers just want the city to get it done. The current bridge is constantly in gridlock, with some 160,000 daily drivers pushing forward — very slowly — at on- and off-ramps, making two impromptu lanes. The new bridge is supposed to cure all these problems.

Luckily, project manager Robert Adams has said that the $1 billion needed to finish construction — which ballooned from $700 million last year due to a longer build-out time — is already lined up through federal funding, and that the tentative completion date is in 2017.

6 Responses

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  1. Hi Mitch,

    You are on point about how that huge search engine works; while the algorithms are secret, results are based on popularity and linking, and any popular term (recent or not) will drown out results for a similar term (try searching for 20th-century German-Jewish leader Karl Marx, for instance).

    However, there is a world of information organized by institutions other than the big G. Libraries and archives are late to the digital game but do have tons of stuff, and ways of finding it through the noise. The Queen Library’s Archives (formerly the Long Island Division), at the main library, has a vertical file dedicated to the Kosciuszko Bridge. It is organized chronologically, so one could simply request the first volume. Brooklyn Public has some nice old photos here:
    And dollars to donuts the official and Robert Moses records with the details of the construction are around somewhere — probably in the city archives.

    Sorry if this sounds vaguely like a rant – it’s definitely not meant to be. It’s just that there is a world of information, especially local history info, that is not readily (i.e. instantaneously, as we have become accustomed to) available online.

    And, all that said, your concerns about the malleability of history in the digital age are also spot-on, and a major concern to all interested parties.



    December 13, 2010 at 2:12 pm

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