Triboro Plaza

Triboro Plaza

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

When Robert Moses (1888-1981) took control of the Triborough Bridge Authority in 1934, he envisioned a series of parks with play facilities and landscaping surrounding the bridge approaches. Triboro Plaza was developed beside the Manhattan approach ramps to the Triborough Bridge on land originally under the control of the Department of Docks. The city transferred control of this plot of land after it had been surrendered by the Department of Docks in May 1935 to the Triborough Bridge Authority for the purpose of building a bridge approach upon it.

The Triborough Bridge’s 13,829 feet of roadway viaduct, which run over three steel bridges, spans the waters between Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens. Plans for connecting the three boroughs were first announced in 1916 by Edward A. Byrne, the chief engineer of the City Department of Plant and Structures, but the project did not receive funding until 1925. Construction of the bridge, designed by Othmar H. Ammann and architect Aymar Embury II, commenced on October 25, 1929 - “Black Monday,” the day of the great stock market crash. During the ensuing economic crisis, investors refused to purchase unstable municipal bonds and all construction halted, as the city found itself without adequate funds. Work on the bridge was at a standstill until 1932, when Robert Moses (1888-1981), serving as chairman of the State Emergency Public Works Commission, made it a top priority.

In early 1933, Moses drafted legislation that formed the Triborough Bridge Authority (TBA). The TBA seemed to be a temporary public-benefit corporation that would dismantle after paying for the bridge by selling its bonds exclusively to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, and later the Public Works Administration, both New Deal organizations set up by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help rebuild the economy during the Great Depression. In reality, however, Moses never had to stop selling bonds, due to a clever loophole he wrote into the TBA charter, and thus did not have to close down the Authority.

On July 11, 1936, after seven years of stilted construction and $60 million worth of expenses, the Triborough Bridge opened to traffic. The main span carries cars 2,780 feet from Queens to Ward’s Island, 143 feet above the river. A 700-foot lift bridge connects Randalls Island and 125th Street in Manhattan, and a 1,217 foot-long truss bridge links Randalls Island to the Bronx. In addition to its three main elements, the complex structure comprises a number of smaller bridges and viaducts, and 14 miles of approach highways and parkways, as well as parks and recreational facilities inserted wherever possible.

During its first year, the bridge carried 9,650,000 vehicles, and generated $2,720,000 in tolls. Under the direction of Robert Moses, the well-funded Authority grew steadily and eventually became the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, which was merged with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

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