Tuesday, May 11, 2010

#124 Roosevelt Avenue Bridge - Flushing Creek, Queens

Roosevelt Avenue Bridge - Flushing Creek, Queens, May 11, 2010
Bill Holloway, Michael Richter, Keith Nelson, Rob Hickman

View on Unicycle NYC Bridge Tour Map at: unibridgetour.net

On a chilly May morning, we added a few extra layers and headed back to Flushing Queens to cross the Roosevelt Avenue Bridge over Flushing Creek. Rob and Keith were joined this week by Michael Richter and New Jersey based Bill Halloway from NJUNICYCLE.COM. It was Bill's first ride with the Bridge Tour.

Borrowing the Kono's tiny car, Keith used his Eagle Scout training to pack three unicycles into the trunk. The fourth rode down the middle of the car with the saddle on the gear shifting lever. We unloaded the one wheels from the four wheel in a parking lot of school buses. Within moments, we heard screaming children reveling in our rolling past as we entered the Park.

In Flushing Meadows Corona Park, we began by unicyling around the world. Due to larger wheel sizes and continuous training, we were able to go around the world in half the time as our previous ride.

From a distance, we saw a good looking small bridge and followed the meandering park paths, always trying to orient in the bridges direction. We found ourselves rolling through a golf course and finally coming upon the bridge only to discover that it was Porpoise Bridge, one we had already crossed. And so, we reoriented and headed to Roosevelt Avenue. The day would be spent crossing many bridges crossed back in March, but the main reason for today's ride still lay ahead.

It was important to cross the Roosevelt Avenue Bridge because of upcoming scheduled work on the bridge. In fact, workers were busy surveying the site during our crossing.

Once across the bridge we went looking for other bridges over Flushing creek. Knowing that Northern Boulevard is a major thoroughfare we were sure that it would provide a nice pedestrain/cycle lane. We rode over to Northern Boulevard bridge, but couldn't find a safe passage, fearful of the speeding trucks pulling swaying trailers, and narrow lanes leaving no room for one wheelers traveling at 7 mph, we concurred that at least today we would be unable to cross it. The other Flushing Creek spans were even more unfriendly to pedal powered vehicles.

Afterwards we cut through auto alley, which, altough it was directly across from the outfield gates of the Mets' Citi Field stadium, resembled in site, smell, and in every other sense the third world. Free range roosters made their presence known. Here to the joy of lookers on we attempted vitual off-road riding dodging pot holes, oil slicks, mud puddles, and extremely rough pavement. Terrain and chaotic traffic patterns provided a constant challenge. Traditional auto rules seemed to be waved in this area, and cars swerved around on whatever side of the road was less treacherous. This four block stretch would be an excellent location for NYC's first MUNI (mountain unicycling) Festival. And probably to the surprise of every "fix a flat" and body shop on the strip, our tires were never punctured and the unicycles remained intact.

Afterwards we sought smooth pavement, and for a lack of anywhere better to go, we decided to once again ride around Citi field. Richter stopped to ask a security guard if we could go on the field for a photo on home plate, needless to say, we did not get the photo. Although the NY Citi's (or is it the Mets) were not in the park, bomb sniffing dogs were busy sniffing the rear ends of every vehicle, except for ours, entering the area. A quick ride over the Citifield Boardwalk, we rolled through one of the grand entrances of the old world's fair (1939/40 and 1964/65) site.

Back in Flushing Meadows Corona park, we decided to take birthday boy Keith Nelson for a ride on the Carosel. The ride operators allowed us to photograph the unicycles in a carriage, but would not allow the one wheels to ride. The band organ on display seemed to have been replaced by a more modern amplification system, but the sounds were still classic in style. This beauty had torque. So much toque, in fact, that Bill got dizzy. Rob made note of the construction of the carousel that allowed for the horses to swing out and provide a better angle for a rider to stay put. Richter enjoyed the stirrups. And we all wondered that if allowed, would we be able to ride a unicycle backwards on a rotating carousel and not move.

Afterwards Bill and Keith treated us to pretzels, and we headed back to the car.

Speaking of carousels, in honor of Keith's four decades on the planet, he received his own small carousel. So if you are ever in Hudson and in need of a spin, stop by the Bindlestiff's upstate headquarters.

Started: May 11, 2010 11:13:29 AM
Ride Time: 2:12:56
Stopped Time: 2:29
Distance: 6.87 miles
Average: 3.10 miles/hr
Fastest Speed: 9.47 miles/hr

From bridgesnyc.com:
The Roosevelt Avenue Bridge is a double-deck, double-leaf bascule movable bridge over the Flushing River in northeastern Queens. It carries four lanes of Roosevelt Avenue and two sidewalks on its lower deck, and three tracks of the IRT Flushing / 7 train line of the New York City Subway on its top.

Surveying for the bridge began in 1913 as part of an extension of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company’s Woodside and Corona line. The original plan had the line mapped out between 42nd Street in Manhattan and Prime Street in Corona, with the extension reaching out to the village of Flushing, with a possible further extension to Little Neck at the city line. The line reached Corona in 1917, but United States involvement in World War I prevented further construction. Financial problems after the war delayed progress still until 1921, when city engineers began negotiations with the US War Department concerning what type of structure the city could build to cross the Flushing River. The War Department, which had jurisdiction over all navigable waterways and their crossings in the country at that time, denied a request by the city to be allowed to build a simple fixed bridge across the river on account of it being an obstruction to river traffic. A tunnel was briefly considered, but was decided against when cost estimates for it reached $2,500,000, more than the city was willing to pay. The War Department suggested the city build a bascule bridge, and officials relented.

Groundbreaking for the bridge was held on April 21, 1923 in a ceremony attended by Mayor John Hylan and Maurice E. Connolly, Borough President of Queens. Construction began soon after, though many delays occurred due to a recurring problem with the foundations of the bridge settling in the deep mud on the banks of the river. On May 14, 1927, the bridge was opened to pedestrians and a bus line was established between downtown Flushing and Willet’s Point Boulevard station, the temporary terminal of the line while the foundation issues were being resolved. Train service would not begin across the bridge until January 21, 1928, with a special train for city officials making the inaugural run from Time Square to the new station in Flushing. The extension to Little Neck has yet to be built.

The final cost of the bridge was $2,640,000, more than the estimated cost of a tunnel under the river, even when adjusted for inflation. Despite the additional cost the city was required to pay for a movable bridge, the need to keep the river open to navigation did not last long. When construction of Flushing Meadows Park was under way in 1939, park engineers realized a dam was needed to keep the tides of the East River from inundating the low-lying fields. The Long Island Railroad, which runs just a few hundred feet upriver from Roosevelt Avenue, agreed to replace the swing bridge they owned over the river with a combined embankment and tidal gate on top of which they would continue to operate their trains. With no docking facilities in place between the two structures, navigation of the Flushing River effectively ended at the Roosevelt Avenue bridge. In 1961, construction of the northern extension of the Van Wyck Expressway began, and the route of the highway was driven directly through the navigation channel of the bridge, supported over the river by concrete piers. The operating mechanisms and bridge tender’s controls were finally removed at that point, and the bridge has not opened since.

The Roosevelt Avenue bridge was the largest trunnion bascule bridge in the world when it was completed. It was designed by Edward A. Byrne and Robert E. Hawley of the NYC Department of Plants and Structures, and built by the Arthur McMullen Company of New York. The channel of the river at the point of the bridge is only 70 feet wide, but because of the skew of the route over the river, the clearance between the bridge piers is 162 feet. Together, the lift leaves are 153 feet long, and each weighs approximately 4 million pounds, supported by a truss structure 25 feet 6 inches deep. The piers that support the leaves are of poured concrete construction, with granite blocks covering the facings exposed to the water. Each pier measures 92 feet by 118 feet, and contains a large hollow space inside to accommodate the movement of the bridge’s counterweights.

In January, 2010, the NYC Department of Transportation announced plans to rehabilitate the bridge starting in 2012. Years of neglect have resulted in a need to replace the road deck, repaint and repair rust on the steel truss and approach structures, and repair deteriorating concrete. The city also plans widen the sidewalks from 8 to 10 feet and establish unicycle lanes within them. The project is expected to be finished in 2015.

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