intersection 01.25.11

Kosciuszko Bridge
Every Person in New York

Was there ever a bridge more unloved?

The unprepossessing Kosciuszko Bridge has the modest job description of connecting Maspeth to Greenpoint over the now-Superfunded Newtown Creek. It opened in 1939, replacing the Penny Bridge (pictured, right) which wasn't, let's be honest, much in the looks department either.

Job performance? On its way out the door. Traffic snarls around the bridge are a near-permanent condition. Structural integrity: miserable. The Kosciuszko was chosen as the worst bridge in the state by the General Contractors Association in 2009.

The truss bridge's namesake is Polish-born Thaddeus Kosciuszko (1746-1817), a hero of the American Revolution for, among other things, the fortification of West Point and crucial skills at Saratoga which helped create a turning point in the Colonists' fortunes. (You can read the full story in Alex Storozynski's book The Peasant Prince.) One thing is certain: Kosciuszko was a brilliant engineer and he deserves a better bridge than the crumbling one with his name on it.

And one is on the way. From the four bridge types under consideration by the NY State DOT's
Kosciuszko Bridge Project, the local favorite was the cable-stayed bridge pictured. At least it was in the project's community meetings in Brooklyn and Queens last year; definitely small sample, though. Whichever design is chosen, the number of lanes is expected to increase and there would be an addition of a biking and pedestrian lane. The DOT will make a selection this coming year for a construction start* of 2014 and a completion* date of 2019, at a cost* of $1 billion. (*estimated)

Worse than being hated, perhaps, is being ignored: Check the Times archives and you'll find the Brooklyn Bridge mentioned over 10,000 times throughout the years (the archive stops counting after 10,000 results). The Kosciuszko? 106 times. Sufjan Stevens, who composed the radiant, Coplandish cinematic suite The BQE in 2007, gives the Kosciuszko the most fleeting of glances in the piece. Even John Wayne Gacy, Jr. has gotten more consideration from Stevens than the bridge—and the Kosciuszko never dressed like a clown.

There are artists, though, giving the bridge some love and attention in its dotage. Here are three of them:

Valeri Larko
Kosciuszko Bridge

Jennifer (Jaye) Fox
(Ms. Fox has a series on the bridge)

Elena Soterakis
Kosciuszko Bridge

How do pronounce Kosciuszko? Kawsh-choosh-kaw
More on Greenpoint? Read on…

Travels to Switzerland

Jason Polan started Every Person in New York in March of 2008. He plans on working on the project until it is finished. Look for Every Person in New York on Tuesdays in MUG and daily at Jason's site.

Madison Square Park (from 2009)

recent entries

25 Ways to End the Year, the skint

The Fighting Age

One Liners, the skint

See all articles in INTERSECTION

Get a daily dose of MUG
right in your Inbox.