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Opening ceremony of the Kosciuszko Bridge. Credit: Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo via flickr Opening ceremony of the Kosciuszko Bridge. Credit: Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo via flickr
The second span of the Kosciuszko Bridge has officially opened to the public, nearly doubling the crossing’s traffic capacity and adding a pedestrian and cyclist pathway that connects Brooklyn and Queens. The four lanes opened to westbound traffic earlier this morning, while all five lanes on the first-phase bridge, which carried all BQE traffic for a year and a half, switched to eastbound. The twin spans add a bold skyline statement, illuminated with a dazzling nighttime LED display.
Meeker Avenue Bridge, Kosciuszko Bridge, Percy Loomis Sperr, New York Public Library Meeker Avenue Bridge in 1939, a day prior to the official opening. Credit: Percy Loomis Sperr via the New York Public Library
The original Meeker Avenue Bridge opened on August 23, 1939, and was renamed a year later after Tadeusz Kościuszko, a Polish-born military engineer responsible for fortification and bridge work in the American Revolution. The naming paid homage to the large Polish community in Greenpoint, on the Brooklyn side of the bridge, and gestured support for Poland, occupied by Nazi Germany at the time.


By the turn of the millennium, the overburdened, under-maintained, and functionally obsolete bridge was in dire need of replacement. Several lanes of the BQE and the Long Island Expressway off-ramps squeezed into three narrow lanes that lacked shoulders and proper drainage. The deck rose 125 feet above the water of the Newtown Creek to allow for unobstructed shipping, yet the steep roadway incline further slowed traffic and contributed to an accident rate that ranked at six times the statewide average.

Kosciuszko Bridge, Newtown Creek, Long Island City, Vitali Ogorodnikov The first span of the Kosciuszko Bridge is under construction, with the original bridge in the background. Looking north toward Long Island City. August 1, 2015. Credit: Vitali Ogorodnikov
In February 2010, the NY State Department of Transportation presented four design alternatives for a new crossing. The selected cable-stayed system, also used in the recently-completed Goethals and Gov. Mario Cuomo bridges, is optimal for medium-length spans. The new bridges run 952 feet at their longest span, two-thirds of the Brooklyn Bridge’s 1,596-foot arch-to-arch length, or three-plus times the original 300-foot truss that spanned the 250-foot-wide creek.


The added span length creates column-free space beneath the bridge, where the North Brooklyn Parks Alliance is planning a new park. Since tall ships no longer traverse the creek, the new deck runs lower and makes for a smoother crossing on foot, bike, or by car. The lanes are wider, greater in number (five eastbound and four westbound), and provide ample drainage and shoulders.


The first span rose as its rusty predecessor was being dismantled; the central cantilever of the old bridge was lowered onto a river-based barge in mid-2017, and controlled demolition felled the approach spans in October of that year; parts of the structure currently rest at the ocean floor as an artificial reef. The recently-opened second span rises in place of the original structure.

Kosciuszko Bridge, ribbon cutting, opening ceremony, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, flickr Ribbon-cutting at the Kosciuszko Bridge. Credit: Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo via flickr
Under light drizzle, Governor Cuomo presided at yesterday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony and praised the project as functional, on-budget, and under schedule. Though the roadway remained closed to traffic until early morning today, cyclists and pedestrians traversed the footpath, few in number but jubilant in mood despite the gloomy weather, snapping pictures of the steel-and-concrete superstructure, plaque with eagle-toting seals of the United States and Poland, and the cloud-shrouded city beyond, where the skylines of Downtown Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, Midtown, and Long Island City in Queens all come in splendid view.
Kosciuszko Bridge, nighttime illumination, opening ceremony, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, flickr Nighttime illumination at the Kosciuszko Bridge. Credit: Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo via flickr
The highlight of the evening ceremony was the bridge’s LED lighting system, which danced and flickered to Billy Joel tunes and mirrored the opening party that was held for the first span on April 27, 2017.
Kosciuszko Bridge, Vitali Ogorodnikov Kosciuszko Bridge. Looking northeast. Credit: Vitali Ogorodnikov
The 287-foot-tall, chamfered concrete pylons and graceful, harp-like suspension cables add a bold centerpiece between the rapidly-growing skylines of Brooklyn and Queens. The 4,000-foot pathway lets New Yorkers walk and bike between Greenpoint in Brooklyn and Sunnyside in Queens, bypassing the Newtown Creek Industrial District below. Plans are in progress to upgrade public spaces and a currently-lacking bike network at either approach; on the Queens side, Community District 2’s Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer has recently unveiled a plan to dramatically increase the number of bike lanes in the district that spans from Long Island City and the Queensboro Bridge to Sunnyside and the Kosciuszko Bridge; another bridge-adjacent park is in the works in Queens.


To view the slideshow on mobile, swipe for next photo. Images by Vitali Ogorodnikov.

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Content & Research Manager Vitali Ogorodnikov