Bridges Project: Madison Avenue Bridge

The Madison Avenue Bridge is probably best known as the final bridge on the New York Marathon course. I’ve run over it three times – once in 2005 during my first New York Marathon, once in training for the race this year, and once during the race this year.

Madison Avenue connects Manhattan and the Bronx, crosses the Harlem river, and is one of those rare spots where the numbered streets in Manhattan and the Bronx line up. Pedestrian access to the bridge on the Bronx side is at 138th Street just after Grand Concourse. On the manhattan side, access is gained at 138th and 5th avenue.

For a bridge, Madison Avenue is pretty flat and forgiving. And by Mile 21 when you get here, believe me, you’re happy for a flat bridge.

Here’s a picture I took facing east, looking at the Third Avenue Bridge during a training run this fall.

Long Run: The Gowanus Bridges

I’ve written before about my fascination with New York’s waterways and the bridges that cross them and I’ve got a special place in my heart for the Gowanus Canal and the small bridges that cross this polluted little slice of Brooklyn. A couple of weekends ago, I plotted out a 13 miler that crossed all five of the Gowanus bridges and convinced good buddy Joe to come along.  The first half was a blast, second half was a slog. So it goes.

Starting from my hood (Prospect Heights), the bridges over the Gowanus canal, in order, are the Union Street Bridge, the Carroll Street Bridge, the Third Street Bridge, the Ninth Street Bridge and the Hamilton Avenue Bridge.  Pedestrian access to all of them is easy – just run down the street they’re named after until you hit them, then run over them.  Done.

The Union Street Bridge

The Union Street Bridge

Check out the classic Carroll Street Bridge sign. dating from when the Gowanus was still an active industrial waterway

Check out the classic Carroll Street Bridge sign. dating from when the Gowanus was still an active industrial waterway

Joe and I zippered the canal, crossing the Union street bridge, then cruising down Bond street, then back over the Carroll, up third avenue, over the third street bridge and so on until we crossed the Hamilton Bridge.

The view from the Carroll Street Bridge

The view from the Carroll Street Bridge


Wildlife of the Gowanus Canal.

Wildlife of the Gowanus Canal.

Joe thought it was silly, but he lacks a sense of adventure.  I thought it was fun.

Joe on the Third Street Bridge being all, "dude, this is stupid".

Joe on the Third Street Bridge being all, “dude, this is stupid”.

The Gowanus area is a microcosm of the Brooklyn of today. There’s a Whole Foods overlooking the polluted canal, a number of hotels and my climbing gym.  But there are also scrap metal yards, lumber yards, and sketchy mechanics working right on the street.


Ninth Street Bridge

As parts of my borough get more yuppifieid (like where I live) its important to realize that just two miles from multi-million dollar Brownstone Brooklyn there’s an active scrap yard where people pull up in beat up old vans and shopping carts to sell scrap metal, Bubs – style.


Hamilton Avenue from Ninth Street

Brooklyn isn’t all condo and artisanal pour over coffee.  Some of it is very broke and just trying to get by.  As a matter of fact, as this article shows, much of the borough is actually getting poorer.  As our mayor has said, it’s a tale of two cities. You can see that dichotomy on a run through Gowanus.


Hamilton Avenue 

After the bridges, we climbed Third Street to the Park for some loops.  Joe’s knee was bothering him, so he headed home after a half loop.  I completed a standard figure 8 and was feeling pretty gassed by the end.  When I finished the sun was high and the weather, for once, was warm . I was exhausted, but already plotting my next run through this ever changing city.