If you know me you know I love all of New York City’s bridges. The Brooklyn Bridge is, of course, iconic — the neo-Gothic tan stone architecture and hybrid suspension/cable-stay design are awe inspiring. John Roebling created a true masterpiece. And, for a number of personal reasons the Brooklyn Bridge is my favorite bridge in the city.
It’s also a madhouse where tourists daftly wander into the bike path and enraged bikers furiously ring their bell or cry out for those spaced out stragglers to stay in their lane; where zombified selfie-takers nearly cause World War Z-like pile ups each time they abruptly stop to pose for their Instagram followers.
Yes, I love the Brooklyn Bridge and it is possible to enjoy the roughly mile long trek across it. You just have to know the best time of day to make the journey.
As an alternative to the chaos of the Brooklyn Bridge, I find myself more frequently opting for the Manhattan Bridge whenever I just feel the need to cross the East River.
Apparently the Manhattan Bridge doesn’t capture the imagination of tourists the same way the Brooklyn Bridge does, so it’s never crowded. In fact, the Manhattan Bridge’s pedestrian path can seem rather desolate in comparison.
While there’s certainly less foot traffic, some might not consider the walk across the Manhattan Bridge to be particularly peaceful, as subways rumble past every few minutes.
I don’t mind it.
The Brooklyn Bridge boasts some great views of the city, but it’s not like the view from the Manhattan Bridge is bad. You can look out from one side of the bridge and see the East River, FDR Drive, the Financial District, Chinatown and, yes, that other, more famous bridge.
The Brooklyn Bridge is revered for its architectural beauty — as you walk across it you can’t help but marvel at the perfection with which the structure was designed, engineered and built — from the stone towers to the massive steel wire cables, everything about the bridge screams precision and beauty.
But I could make a similar case for the Manhattan Bridge, with its elaborately designed ornamentation and textures.
The grand arch and colonnade at the Manhattan entry to the bridge are, on their own, features worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the Brooklyn Bridge. However, if you are saddled with the misfortune of having to drive into Manhattan via this route, the beauty of the arch and colonnade will disappear the instant you see what you have to deal with trying to make it onto Bowery or Canal St.
If you’re into graffiti (as I am), the Manhattan Bridge is sporadically adorned with it. None of it is particularly good, but it’s there. You know what the Manhattan Bridge doesn’t have, though? People hawking their goods along the pedestrian path. Don’t get me wrong, I love the independent entrepreneurial spirit that pervades New York — from dollar-water to umbrellas to paintings and all other manner of souvenirs, you can get it on the Brooklyn Bridge. But if you’re not the type that enjoys the mall on Black Friday, you might want to pick a different bridge to cross.
I’ll confess to being ever so slightly hyperbolic here. And I will reaffirm my deep and undying love for the Brooklyn Bridge. I just love it more at 11 p.m. than I do at 11 a.m.
In stark contrast to its nearest neighbor in the East River, the Manhattan Bridge is largely overlooked by tourists, making the walk across it much more leisurely. So long as this continues to be the case I’ll continue to defer to the bridge less traveled.
*Quick fact: Though you can’t tell from these photos, the Manhattan Bridge is a beautiful blue color. It was originally gray but, over time, the color has morphed into a bluish-gray (more blue, if you ask me). What’s more, the official color of the borough of Manhattan is “Manhattan Bridge Blue.”
**All photos: Bronica SQ-A | Ilford Delta 100 | Rodinal (1:25)