Folks who live in Upper Manhattan or Highbridge in the Bronx will no longer have to take a bus or car to cross the river, as by spring, city officials say the High Bridge will be open. Bronx reporter Erin Clarke got an exclusive tour of the bridge and filed the following report.
A vital link connecting the similar neighborhoods of Washington Heights in Manhattan to Highbridge in the Bronx will finally open in 2015.
"You have a large Dominican population. And lot of those folks either lived in Washington Heights at some point or they have family members," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. "Instead of taking cars or a train and being underground or stuck in traffic, you can walk from one side to the other."
The bridge was supposed to open late this year, but a harsh winter caused delays. City officials say the $61 million construction project falls in line with a plan to provide close park access to all New Yorkers.
"This is one that's bridging a community that's in desperate need of recreational resources," said Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver.
Opening the bridge will allow residents of Highbridge to run, walk or bike across the nearly 1,400-foot span to a 100-acre park that has a pool and ice skating rink.
The High Bridge, formerly part of the old Croton Aqueduct system, has been closed for decades.
"Initially, this was an aqueduct which carried water from one side to the other. That lived out its purpose," Silver said.
While restoring this bridge, a lot of focus has gone into preserving that history.
"A lot of care was taken to ensure that we get the materials that maintained the originality and the history that the bridge represents," said Feniosky Pena-Mora, commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction. "It's going to look like new, but old at the same time."
Original bricks are being replaced and much of the structure refurbished. After years of accumulating soot from car traffic, the bridge is getting a cleaning so original details can be seen and enjoyed.
"To have it so that you can give it a modern day stern and have it as firm as it needs to be, but at the same time, to keep that original rustic feat, that's not an easy feat, and they've been able to do it, and we're so excited about it," Diaz Jr. said.
There is no exact opening date yet, just spring for now. Officials say it's fitting, as it will be a rebirth of the High Bridge and Mother Nature's beauty.