Queensbridge Park

Queensbridge Park

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

This park is named for the nearby Queensboro Bridge, which is also known as the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge or 59th Street Bridge. The 1960s band Simon and Garfunkel made the bridge famous in their song “Feelin’ Groovy,” also called “The 59th Street Bridge Song.”

Dr. Thomas Rainey (1824-1910), a resident of Ravenswood, Queens, spent twenty-five years of his life and most of his fortune promoting the construction of a bridge across the East River connecting Manhattan and Long Island City. The area now occupied by Rainey Park (just to the north) was to be the Queens anchor for this structure, which was to be called Blackwell Island Bridge. The bridge, planned with one ramp south to Brooklyn and another out to Long Island, was promoted as a catalyst for developing growth in Queens and as a railroad link to Long Island. However, the effort fell apart during the financial Panic of 1873; most interest in the region was for another bridge between Brooklyn and Manhattan, and the sparse population in Queens at the time raised further concerns of need and profitability.

On July 19, 1901, construction on the Queensboro Bridge officially began, but it was years before any notable progress was made. Renowned bridge engineer and City Bridge Commissioner Gustav Lindenthal (1850-1935) collaborated with architects Leffert L. Buck (1837-1909) and other designers and builders of the Williamsburg Bridge, to create the Queensboro Bridge. Significant construction did not get underway until 1906, after several delays, including a lengthy steel strike. 

The final link in the superstructure of the Queensboro Bridge was completed in March 1908.  One year later, the bridge opened to traffic, at the cost of $20 million. The original 1909 configuration of the bridge accommodated six lanes for motor vehicles, four pairs of trolley tracks, two elevated subway lines, and lanes for pedestrians and bicyclists. By the 1930s, this connection with Manhattan transformed Queens from a rural outpost into a borough with over two million by the 1950s. In 1957, the last trolley trains crossed the Queensboro Bridge, and the bridge was reconfigured to allow for ten lanes of vehicular traffic. 

The City of New York acquired the land that is now Queensbridge Park in two sections in 1939.  The nearby Queensbridge Houses gave jurisdiction of the land to the New York City Housing Authority, but it was understood that NYC Parks would maintain it. In 1975, some of the property was transformed into parking lots under the supervision of the Bureau of Property Management.  The park is characterized by a variety of facilities, including baseball fields, a soccer-football combination field, basketball, volleyball and handball courts, a playground with see-saws, swings and jungle gyms, a comfort station, picnic areas, sitting areas, walkways, greenery, and trees. 

In 2014, the seawall was reconstructed using rip-rap, or large rocks, which protect the shoreline by absorbing and deflecting waves while lessening the effects of erosion. The project also created a 6-foot wide waterfront promenade with benches, plantings, and a small wharf at its northern end. The promenade was named after long-time park advocate Elizabeth McQueen.

NYC Parks announced in 2018 that the park’s old field house, which was built in 1941, will be demolished in order to build a new 1,500 square foot field house and comfort station. The new LEED-certified field house will include a community room, an office area for Parks staff, a public restroom, and storage space for the park’s maintenance equipment. It will be surrounded by an outdoor plaza area complete with seating, bicycle racks, and drinking fountains.

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