The dream of being able once again to walk over the High Bridge has moved toward realization since Mayor Bloomberg announced that New York City will restore and reopen the bridge. The High Bridge is New York's oldest standing bridge and the most celebrated part of the famed Old Croton Aqueduct. Construction is underway, and the bridge will reopen in 2014.
Reopening the High Bridge:
- provides a quarter-mile of new space to play, exercise and enjoy the outdoors, opening a park that has been closed to the public for more than 40 years,
- connects directly to more than 125 acres of parkland (in Manhattan and the Bronx) with paths, lawns, natural areas, baseball fields, basketball courts, a mountain biking course and the Highbridge Pool and Play Center,
- adds a new section of the New York City Greenway, so that pedestrians and bicyclists can travel between boroughs on an auto-free route,
- and preserves an important historical structure that tells the story of New York City's past.
Learn more about the past, present, and future of the High Bridge.
About the Project
By summer 2014, the bridge will be rehabilitated and reopened for pedestrians and bicyclists thanks to $47.85 million in funding from Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative. Additional funding from Congressman José E. Serrano at the early kickoff stage was also critical to moving the $61.7 million project forward. The reopened High Bridge will be an essential link in New York City’s expanding waterfront Greenway. It will allow Bronx residents to reach the Highbridge Pool and Recreation Center, and Manhattan residents to reach the Harlem River shoreline. Planned improvements will make the bridge more accessible and safe. The rehabilitation will follow historic preservation principles to restore the architectural details of this landmarked structure for public enjoyment.
Spring 2010–Fall 2011: Preparation of design documents and public meetings. Complete.
Summer 2012–Summer 2014: Rehabilitation of the High Bridge for public use. In progress.
What's Happening Now
Bridge construction is being managed by the New York City Department of Design and Construction in partnership with Parks and Recreation. The construction contract was competitively bid, and awarded to Schiavone Construction Co., LLC. Construction started in August 2012. The design for restoration of the High Bridge was completed in December 2011 by a team of consultants led by Lichtenstein Consulting Engineers, P.C.
For more information, please contact:
Marlyn Nunez, Community Liaison, NYC Department of Design and Construction
Phone: (718) 588-2564
For media inquiries, please contact:
Office of Public Information, NYC Department of Design and Construction
Phone: (718) 391-1641
Office of Public Affairs, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation
Phone: (212) 360-1311
Visit the High Bridge
Although the High Bridge is closed during construction, nearby attractions offer plenty to do and great views. Portions of Highbridge Park (in the Bronx and in Manhattan) may also be closed.
Highbridge Park in Manhattan encompasses 119 acres of dramatic topography overlooking the Harlem River between Dyckman Street and W. 155th Street. The Old Croton Aqueduct trail can be reached from entrances at Amsterdam Avenue/172nd Street, Edgecombe Avenue/167th Street or Edgecombe Avenue/158th Street. The Highbridge Pool, built at the site of the old reservoir, is the largest pool in Manhattan. The park’s recreation center provides free computer, cultural and sports programming for neighborhood children. Playgrounds, soccer fields, basketball courts, and extensive walking trails are found throughout the park.
The Harlem River Speedway esplanade is part of the 32-mile Manhattan Waterfront Greenway that rings the borough. It passes directly below the High Bridge. Visit the Speedway from entrances at Dyckman Street/10th Avenue, or from 155th Street/Edgecombe Avenue.
Highbridge Park in the Bronx is a one-acre sitting park at W. 170th Street and University Avenue. The Old Croton Aqueduct lies directly beneath the park. It formerly carried water to the historic gatehouse building and then over the High Bridge. Game tables and seating areas take advantage of the park’s fine views of the Harlem River and Manhattan.
Roberto Clemente State Park. This park's popular picnic areas, pool and ballfields are accessible by public transportation. More information about Roberto Clemente State Park
Harlem River boat tours. Boat tours that circle Manhattan Island travel up the Harlem River and down the Hudson River, crossing underneath the High Bridge as they go.
History of the High Bridge
"High Bridge, decked with flags and echoing with speeches, was opened to traffic again on Saturday. But what strange traffic! No other bridge about the city carries any just like it: waters from the Old Croton Aqueduct, pedestrians crossing to the Bronx, promenaders taking advantage on a summer’s evening, as they have for almost a century, of the cool breezes and fine prospect, couples arm in arm. No clanking cars, no honking motors!...As the steel span symbolizes the future, so the old arches stand as a link with the past." (From "High Bridge Transformed:," New York Times, Oct. 30, 1928)
The High Bridge is part of the Old Croton Aqueduct, the brick water tunnel that brought New York City its earliest supply of clean water. The bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a New York City landmark. The Old Croton Aqueduct is considered one of America’s greatest 19th century engineering achievements and has been named a National Historic Landmark.
The Aqueduct was designed to slope gently, moving water entirely by gravity through 41 miles of countryside from the Croton River in Westchester County to Manhattan Island. It crossed the Harlem River on the High Bridge, the best-known structure of this pioneering water supply project, in pipes that still lie beneath the walkway of the bridge. The Old Croton Aqueduct served the city from 1842 until 1958, carrying nearly 100 million gallons a day at its peak. Its pure, plentiful water brought the ravages of fire and disease under control and helped the city to expand rapidly.
About The Bridge
Design and Dimensions
Designed on principles of Roman aqueduct architecture, the granite bridge is about 116 feet in height, with the peak of its arches 100 feet above the Harlem River. The bridge is 1,450 feet long, measured from gatehouse to gatehouse, with a 1,200-foot-long brick walkway. The High Bridge was begun in 1839 and completed in 1848. Larger water pipes were added and the walkway was built in 1861-64. In 1927-28, after many years of calls for complete demolition of the bridge, the city replaced five of the original 15 arches with a central steel span to ease the passage of large ships. The rest of the majestic stone arches still stand, the majority on the Bronx side of the river. The bridge has never carried vehicles.
History and Use
Upon its opening in 1848, the High Bridge - with its beautiful white stone arches spanning the river between steep, wooded banks - quickly achieved fame as an attraction for New Yorkers and tourists and a favorite subject for artists and photographers. Hotels, restaurants and amusement parks opened nearby as the walkway became a popular promenade for strollers and an important crossing for Bronx and Manhattan neighborhood residents.
Equally popular were boat cruises up and down the river, and racing competitions for crew boats. Later, once the Harlem River Speedway was opened in 1898, sightseers strolled along the new waterfront esplanade in the cool breezes and watched horses and buggies fly by.
After construction of the Major Deegan Expressway and Harlem River Driveway, public use of the waterfront faded. The river had become polluted over time, many paths were blocked, and the magnetic pull of the parks on the water's edge vanished.
All of these areas are being reclaimed after lying dormant for years. The High Bridge lies at the center of a major revitalization of the Harlem River Valley, for both the Bronx and Manhattan. Before very long, the High Bridge will become linked to the new parks being built on both sides of the river. Seated at the center of all of these recreational attractions, the High Bridge will encourage residents and visitors alike to explore the new, revived river.
Future of the High Bridge
The High Bridge will reopen in restored condition and with many new improvements. The bridge has quietly deteriorated since the last major structural changes in 1928. Piecemeal repairs performed in the 1970's extended the life of the bridge but were not historically appropriate.
The restored bridge will welcome walkers, bicyclists, runners and sit-and-enjoyers. New ramps will allow wheelchair users and families with strollers to bypass the entrance steps, and taller safety fencing will complement the original low handrail. New lights will allow evening use.
The historical features and materials of the bridge will shine again, with 165 years of soot cleaned from the stone, the steel span repainted, and the brick deck reset.
Invisible to the eye will be a number of structural improvements to strengthen the bridge and preserve it for years to come: rust removal, new steel beams, new walkway tie rods and new mortar in all of the stone and brick joints.
Finally, the great pipe - the 7-foot wrought iron water main - that still lies inside the bridge will be preserved as an artifact of the early days of New York City's growth.
The High Bridge design has been approved by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Download the Presentation Boards shown at the public hearing in April 2011.
The High Bridge Coalition
“Greetings from the High Bridge Coalition! We are thrilled that rehabilitation work on the High Bridge is underway. It could never have happened without the help of our partners and friends. Thank you all for the time, effort and good wishes you have contributed. We also thank the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the New York City Department of Design and Construction, who together are restoring the bridge.”
For organizations and individuals who wish to get involved, the Coalition is currently working with the Harlem River Working Group to create and improve public waterfront access along the Harlem River. The Coalition will begin working on activities and programming with the Parks Department upon the opening of the bridge in 2014.
The High Bridge Coalition's brochure The High Bridge and Highbridge Parks provides an illustrated overview of its mission. The Coalition is grateful for the support of the Partnerships for Parks Catalyst Program, which created this brochure and provided technical assistance.