Queensboro Bridge (now Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge)

11th Street and Bridge Plaza North and Bridge Plaza South
Henry Hornbostel

Plans for a bridge across the East River at Blackwell’s Island (now Roosevelt Island) were submitted to the City in 1877, but it would take another thirty years for the bridge to come to fruition. The Queensboro Bridge was the third bridge to span the East River, preceded by the Brooklyn Bridge (completed in 1883) and the Williamsburg Bridge (completed in 1903), and followed closely by the Manhattan Bridge (completed in 1909). Architect Henry Hornbostel studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, and was influenced by Jean Resal’s design for the Pont Mirabeau in Paris, which was completed in 1895 while Hornbostel was a student there. The steel superstructure for this roughly 7,000-foot-long bridge was furnished by the Pennsylvania Steel Company. Originally, the bridge contained four elevated railroad tracks for the Second Avenue “El” on the upper level and four trolley tracks and a roadway on the lower level. On the Manhattan side, the bridge is famous for its arcade of tile vaulting designed by Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino. The bridge’s rough-faced masonry piers included elevators and stairs to accommodate pedestrians on the Manhattan and Queens sides, as well as at Roosevelt Island. The construction of the bridge transformed this part of Long Island City and led to the widening of streets to accommodate traffic from the bridge. Queensboro Bridge Plaza, now Queens Plaza, was created in what was formerly known as the hamlet of Dutch Kills. The plaza became – and remains – an important transit and commercial hub in Queens. The Queensboro Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a NYC Individual Landmark in 1974.