Last week we rode to the Manhattan side of the High Bridge, which was constructed as an aqueduct to carry water from the Croton Reservoir to Manhattan. It is the oldest bridge connecting Manhattan to another land mass (the Bronx), but it’s been closed for about 40 years. Since we can’t ride across it yet, this week we rode to the Bronx side to see both sides of this architectural wonder. When it reopens we hope it will benefit people living on both sides: back in the day the cliffs along both side of the Harlem River were popular recreation spots but they’re overgrown and a little sketchy these days.
Word of the Day: university
From Latin: universitas magistrorum et scholarium “community of masters and scholars;”
From Latin: universus “whole, entire”
The Bronx side of the High Bridge is along University Avenue–but where’s the university? In 1894 New York University opened a Bronx campus a bit to the north, and gave the street and the neighborhood (University Heights) it’s name. NYU sold the campus to CUNY in 1973 and it’s currently home to Bronx Community College.
High Bridge (Bronx):
Sabian started the day with his 25 mile award! (Maybe not quite there at the time, but he certainly hit it during today’s ride.) We retraced our steps from last week’s Manhattan High Bridge ride much of the way until we headed north on 7th Avenue (Adam Clayton Powell). We passed Harlem’s Renaissance Ballroom and Casino, may have a renaissance of its own soon. The top of the avenue intersects with the access to Macomb’s Dam Bridge, which has a very quaint gestalt with it’s cream-colored paint job and relatively small scale with comfortable sidewalk access.
Our crew took a welcome pineapple break at the bottom of Ogden Avenue where Jade and Zemika worked on fixing their gears. The refreshments were timely as Ogden Avenue was the biggest climb of the day. No problem for Jose, though, who powered up the hill. At the top we had a great view of the “lighthouse” of the H.W. Wilson Company, which was founded in 1917 as an indexing and reference publishing company–essentially it was a precursor to the internet. It’s still in business today, but has been purchased by another company.
The lighthouse or beacon has been a leitmotif on our rides: we had the Little Red Lighthouse ride where beacon was the word of the day, some of our riders attend the Beacon summer program, we have this lighthouse on the publishing company, and later in the trip we passed a smaller decorative lighthouse (el faro) on top of the Beacon Community Center at JHS 45 on 120th Street.
We passed Taqwa Community Farm and some more tempting refreshments on the last few uphill blocks to the hidden entrance to the High Bridge. Finally!. But it was worth it. Nice recreation space constructed by the parks department, with sprinklers and a mini-canal to reflect the course of the Croton aqueduct beneath our feet. Plans for renovation have been kicking around for years, and the current schedule proposes reopening in 2014.
The information poster shows some photographs of how the bridge looked in days gone by, including the previously open view staircase that now is hidden by substantial vegetation. From our vantage we could see the water tower across the way, the Hamilton Bridge, which continues west to become the G.W. Bridge rising above the skyline, and the Washington Bridge, which is our choice for the return trip.
Another break on the bridge itself (grapes) gave us a look north up the Harlem River. And we stopped again back in Manhattan in front of the High Bridge recreation center, where a city water drinking station had been set up–attached directly to the fire hydrant. Nice to think of the relevance to the Croton Aqueduct over the High Bridge, which used to supply NYC with its fresh water.
Sabian got dropped off at his place on 145th, and the rest of the crew sailed downhill on St. Nick’s, passing City College, another component of CUNY (referencing the word of the day).
We passed a father and son tossing a cage on a line into the East River–chicken as bait, crab on the return and there was one in the bucket already.
Plenty of time back at the center for writing and working on the riders’ photos. And for eating the third course of cherries. A fruity feast to conclude a great day.
This trip was on August 9, 2012
Programming time: 5 hours (4 hours Sabian)
Ride time: 3.5 hours (3 hours Sabian)
Distance: 13 miles (9 miles Sabian)
Participants: Sabian Gago, Jasmine Romero, Jade Singleton, Zemika White
Leaders: Cappy Collins, Jose Figueroa, Jhevaughn Langley, Onyx Salvador
2012 High Bridge (Bronx)