This bridge walk was across the Williamsburg Bridge from the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The bridge crosses the East River. Allison and I followed signs to the bicycle path of the bridge which is on the north side of the bridge, or the west/Manhattan bound side. We did not see signs to the pedestrian path, which was a few blocks back on the south side of the bridge, or the east/Brooklyn bound side of the bridge. We parked the car on the street alongside the bicycle entrance to the bridge. As we began, there was a light rain which ended soon enough. The rest of the afternoon was cloudy and very comfortable walking weather.
Just across from the entrance is the Holy Trinity Cathedral Orthodox Church which is housed in a building that used to be the Williamsburgh Trust Company.
Across the street from this church is Continental Army Plaza with a statue of George Washington at Valley Forge
George Washington at Valley Forge Monument
and across from the park is a row of the Citi bicycles just at the entrance to the bridge.
Citibikes at base of bridge entrance
And so we began our trek!
Allison & Deborah beginning walk across bridge …
and leaving Brooklyn, headed towards Manhattan. You walk alongside the vehicle traffic until the walkway is high enough to clear the road. It then curves inward and over the car traffic. Then you walk alongside the train tracks, eventually walking alongside, but above the tracks.
Domino Sugar Refinery
Domino Sugar Refinery from the East River
From the bridge you can see the old Domino Sugar Refinery which has been bought by a developer. There are plans for development but not without controversy. A photo gallery of inside the sugar refinery can be seen here.
The walkways are encased in a pink metal grid which has the feel of being in a cage.
Midway, there is a crossover section that crosses over the train tracks and allows people to access the other side. The tracks can be seen below.
Allison at crossover section
Deborah at crossover section
Detail of tower
The structure of the bridge is fascinating to look at up close. While driving across the bridge, one does not get to see how intricate and beautiful the structure is.
As we approached the Manhattan side of the bridge we could see parks along the East River and the FDR East River Drive. Beyond that is the Lower East Side Housing
Park along East River in the Lower East Side
At the Manhattan end, the two roadways meet and continue to the street. Where the walkways merge, there is a sign identifying the bridge.
Under all the Graffiti, the sign reads:
City of New York — Williamsburg Bridge — Department of Bridges
Allison taking picture of lettering up close
Lettering under graffiti
The J train has now gone underground and the roads continue in the middle and the cars are now on either side.
On the south side of the bridge is the fire station; Engine 15, Ladder 18 , 4th Battalion Chief
And now we have arrived in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Deborah entering Manhattan
Allison welcomed to Manhattan
The Lower East Side of Manhattan has its own history. The mall through the center of Allen Street chronicles the major waves of immigration to the Lower East Side and Chinatown. It is nicknamed the Avenue of the Immigrants.
Africa 1600’s – 1850’s Ireland 1800’s – 1900’s
Irish potato Famine 1845
Germany 1840’s – 1860’s
China 1850’s – 1882
Chinese Exclusion Act 1882 – 1943
Puerto Rico & Cuba 1850’s – 1898
Russia & Poland 1881 – 1924
Romania, Hungary, Lithuania, Ukraine 1881 – 1924
Italy 1880’s – 1920
Turkey & Greece 1900
Jones act grants U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans 1917
Puerto Rico 1917 – 1970’s
China, Taiwan, Hong Kong 1965 – 1980’s
1965 Immigration and Nationality Act ends quotas
Dominican Republic, Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador 1965 – present
China Fujian 1980’s – present
The Tenement Museum on Orchard Street, chronicles America’s urban immigrant history.
The Lower East Side has a strong Hispanic flair. The LES also has an artistic presence with businesses catering to the young crowd. There are several restaurants, many with open walls and/or outside tables.
This week is part of Restaurant Week and Allison found a participating restaurant, Rayuela, for us to have lunch. The food is excellent! and the staff is friendly.
Allison & Deborah inside Rayuela Restaurant
After lunch we strolled around the neighborhood for awhile before heading back across the bridge. Orchard street closes to traffic on Sundays to encourage strolling and shopping. We also visited Broadfoot & Broadfoot art gallery showing art work of a new artist.
Allison shopping on Orchard Street
Although we didn’t eat here, the music coming from the top floor party room of DL; Delancy & Ludlow, was hard to ignore.
Typical Lower East Side intersection
We also stopped in the Essex Street Market. It’s an indoor market with individual vendors selling their wares of foods of every kind.
Essex Street Market
We then headed back to the bridge for our return trip.The Williamsburg Bridge was designated landmark status in 2009.
We began our walk back to Brooklyn.
The East River meanders around lower Manhattan. In the distance are the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges.
We returned on the pedestrian walkway on the south side of the bridge. Here there was much more graffiti. “Artists” don’t have to worry about bicyclists as they draw on the walkway. The paths have almost a park like atmosphere about them. There were a lot of bicyclists, runners and families. Some small groups were playing and sitting and talking.
As we approached Brooklyn, we could see remnants of the old Brooklyn Navy Yard.
The Gretsch Building was once a musical instrument factory and has been converted to upscale residential apartments.
This is where the roads divides again. The last part of the walkway here is secluded and I wouldn’t want to walk down here late at night. This ends a few block further back from the entrance to the bicycle path. We had to cross under the roadway to get to the other side where the car was parked
.Allison exiting Brooklyn side of pedestrian walkway
As vehicular traffic exits the bridge, the roads lead to the local streets or directly to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.
I will have to explore the neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn at another time. It is a unique and changing neighborhood.
Just as we got back to the car, it started to rain heavily. The rains held up just for our walk!
REVISIT TO WILLIAMSBURG BROOKLYN, JUNE 22, 2014:
Since I pointed out the Domino Sugar Factory when I crossed the bridge last year, it was only fitting that I visit the exhibit housed there until July 6th.
Today I visited the Domino Sugar Factory where Kara Walker’s “Subtlety” is currently housed to bring awareness to the use of slaves in the production of sugar and sugar products.
The factory closed in 2004. The walls are still coated with molasses from raw sugar that was stored in this warehouse.
Molasses also still drips from the ceiling. Even though the floor was scrubbed before the exhibit opened, there are pools of molasses on the floor.
Following this exhibit, which will close on July 6th, the factory will be torn down to make way for luxury apartments. This area of Williamsburg is gradually replacing warehouses and industry with higher prices residences, changing the dynamics of the neighborhood.
After spending time viewing “Subtlety” we went to see the Williamsburg Savings Bank building which is alongside the eastbound roadway of the Williamsburg Bridge.
When crossing the bridge last summer, the building was covered in scaffolding. The iconic building has undergone a major renovation.
Behind the building one of the subway trains can be seen crossing the bridge.
This building now is used as an event center, but for those who grew up in NYC, this building will always be the Williamsburg Savings Bank building.
Type of Bridge: Suspension bridge and Truss Causeway
Length: 7308 ft -2227 m
Width: 118 ft – 36 m
Longest Span: 1600 ft 490 m
Crosses: East River
Connects: Lower East Side of Manhattan to Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Opened: December 19, 1903
Carries: 8 Lanes of roadway, 2 Rail tracks (J,M,Z lines), Bicycle and Pedestrian roads