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High Bridge Reopens to Public After More Than 40-Year Closure and Makeover

By Eddie Small | June 9, 2015 1:02pm
 The High Bridge has reopened to the public for the first time in more than 40 years.
The High Bridge
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HIGH BRIDGE — New York City’s famed High Bridge has been refurbished and reopened to the public after more than 40 years.

The 1,450-foot long, 123-foot high structure originally opened in 1848 and is the oldest standing bridge in New York City, connecting Washington Heights in Manhattan and High Bridge in The Bronx. It was closed for more than 40 years but officially reopened to the public on Tuesday as the city's sole interborough bridge redesigned just for cyclists and pedestrians.

The makeover project cost $61.8 million and was funded through the Federal Highway Administration, PlaNYC and Congressman José Serrano.

The High Bridge was built as part of New York's Croton Aqueduct system in the mid-nineteenth century, bringing water to Manhattan from Westchester's Croton River. The bridge opened in 1848, and its walkway was finished in 1864, becoming a popular tourist attraction that led to the construction of nearby amusement parks, hotels and restaurants, according to the Parks Department.

However, public use of the waterfront declined in the mid-twentieth century after the Major Deegan Expressway and the Harlem River Drive were built. The pollution of the river also made it a less popular destination, and the public's access to the bridge was cut off in the 1970s.

Public pressure to reopen the bridge began soon after it was closed, but it wasn't until 2012 that the city began to renovate the structure.

New and updated amenities at the High Bridge include a restored brick walkway and historic railing, as well as a new safety fence.

The city has a host of activities planned for the bridge during the summer now that it is open again. A Japanese drumming concert will take place at the Highbridge Recreation Center in Manhattan's Highbridge Park on June 20 from 6 to 7 p.m., and the High Bridge Festival will occur in the park on July 25 from noon to 4 p.m., with activities including historical walking tours, a scavenger hunt and public art.

The bridge will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Visitors might notice workers putting a few finishing touches over the next few months, but these will not be very intrusive, according to the Parks Department.

“After years of dedicated effort, the High Bridge now offers a very real connection between neighbors, boroughs, and crucial resources," said Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver in a statement. "Starting today, the people of the Bronx and Manhattan — and indeed all New Yorkers — will once again be able to walk, bike, or simply sit and enjoy this beautiful bridge."