This park is named for the nearby Queensboro Bridge, which is also known as the Queensbridge 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. In the same year, the German-born New York Mayor, George B. McClellan (1865-1940), replaced Lindenthal with George E. Best as City Bridge Commissioner.
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 had transformed Queens from a rural outpost into a borough with a population of over one million, and 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. In February 1987, a $180 million reconstruction project began on the bridge, overseen by highly esteemed engineers Steinman, Boynton, Gronquist, and Birdsall. The project was completed in 1992. Today, approximately 155,000 vehicles cross over the Queensboro Bridge daily.
The City of New York acquired the land that is now Queensbridge Park in two sections in 1939. The nearby Queensbridge Housing projects gave jurisdiction of the land to the New York City Housing Authority, but it was understood that 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 1998, Council Member Walter L. McCaffrey funded a $551,000 reconstruction of the ball fields within Queensbridge Park, and in 2000, he sponsored the installation of floodlights for the ball fields.
Directions to Queensbridge Park
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- QUEENSBRIDGE PARK ESPLANADE NAMED IN HONOR OF LOCAL PARK ADVOCATE ELIZABETH MCQUEEN
- Queensbridge Park Benefits From Reconstructed Seawall And New Waterfront Promenade