DITMARS — The Hell Gate Bridge turns 100 years old next year — and Astoria is getting ready to party.
Community leaders are planning a centennial for the hulking red span, which connects Queens and the Bronx by way of the East River, and will hold a public meeting in Astoria Tuesday to solicit ideas on how it should celebrate the milestone.
"We kind of feel a kinship to the bridge, and we wanted to make sure that this didn't get left by the wayside," said Antonio Meloni, head of the local nonprofit New York Anti-Crime Agency, which has painted murals and removed graffiti from the bridge for decades.
"We figured, let's do something befitting a century," he said.
Though the bridge's actual anniversary will take place next year — it first opened on March 9, 1917, according to an archived New York Times article at the time — Meloni thinks there will be several community events to mark the occasion starting as soon as this fall.
A local runners group wants to host a 5K race, and other ideas so far include having a fireworks display and painting new murals along the bridge's base.
"There's a lot of interest," he said. "We kind of want to gel all these different ideas and all these different groups."
Though the bridge is a definitive landmark of the Astoria shoreline, Meloni feels it doesn't get the same attention as other spans, once calling it the "unwanted stepchild" of the city's bridges.
"It's a bridge that a lot of people don't even know exists," Meloni said. "We want to change that."
He's previously asked for Amtrak to add lights to the bridge, and a group of local elected officials also recently called to have it repainted ahead of its 100th anniversary, complaining about its faded and patchy look (Amtrak declined in both instances).
But while the bridge might not get much love outside of the neighborhood, it's a beloved landmark for Astoria residents, Meloni said.
"We grew up with that," he said. "If you look at any picture of Astoria, almost any group that says 'Astoria' always has the Hell Gate as part of its website, part of its logo."
The Hell Gate Centenary Celebration Group will meet Tuesday, April 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Riccardo's by the Bridge, located at 21-01 24th Ave.