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Bridge Park 2

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Bounded by York, Jay, Prospect, and Bridge Streets, Bridge Park 2 is the largest of three parks located near the Manhattan Bridge. Each of the three parks, named Bridge Park 1, Bridge Park 2, and Bridge Park 3, takes its name from the steel, two-level suspension bridge that spans the East River between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge.

Designed by Leon Moisseiff (1872-1943) in 1904 and opened five years later, the Manhattan Bridge connects Canal Street in Manhattan to Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. Its design is often mistakenly attributed to Gustav Lindenthal (1850-1935), who submitted a plan for the bridge in 1903 that was rejected by city administrators. The architectural firm of Carrere and Hastings designed the grand arch and flanking colonnades that mark the entrance to the bridge on Canal Street. The bridge is 6,855 feet (2,089 meters) long with a main span of 1,470 feet (448 meters), and clears the East River at 135 feet (41 meters). The upper level has four lanes for traffic, in addition to a pedestrian walkway. The lower level has three lanes for traffic as well as four subway tracks.

The Board of Estimate (a now defunct municipal body) first acquired this property in 1944 as part of the construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, or BQE. Built under the direction of Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Chairman Robert Moses (1888-1981) between 1946 and 1964, the BQE cost $137 million dollars to complete. Federal, state, and municipal funds were all used to finance construction of this massive, six-lane, 11.7 mile-long expressway. The BQE was intended not only to relieve congestion on local streets, but also to aid industry and business by shortening transportation time between the boroughs. After repeated partial rehabilitations in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the BQE received a $240-million dollar comprehensive reconstruction from the New York State Department of Transportation, completed in 2004.

One year after construction of the BQE began, Parks assumed jurisdiction over this property. For years, however, the parkland remained nameless. In 1998, the park was designated Bridge Park 2. Today, the park boasts numerous game tables and benches, as well as several London plane trees (Platanus x acerifolia) that provide much-needed shade for the park. The London plane tree is a species known for its ability to survive in harsh urban environments, including dry soil and polluted air. A hybrid of the American sycamore and the Oriental planetree, the London planetree resembles the American sycamore, but its fruit clusters are borne in pairs rather than individually. The tree takes its name from London, England, where it flourished throughout the industrial era, despite the city's coal-polluted air. New York City's early park designers, who planted many of Manhattan's most formal parks, considered London planes both elegant and hardy.

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