The Long Run: Two Bridges the Williamsburg and the Manhattan

Another gorgeous Sunday, another bridge checked off the list.  That’s eight down, eighty three to go.

IMG_1151

Lower Manhattan from the Brooklyn side of the Wiliamsburg

 

The Williamsburg, the Willie-B, the Billyburg – with one end in the Lower East Side and the other in Williamsburg, it is the bridge the unifies hip, young, New York City.  Covered in rusting steel latticework,  it isn’t a pretty bridge and its street art as advertising campaigns, coupled with its hip users, make it not quite the work-a-day hero the Manhattan Bridge is — yet it still has its charms.

The Manhattan entrance to the Bridge

The Manhattan entrance to the Bridge

First, it is highly used. I’m sure the City keeps statistics on pedestrian and cyclist use of the various East River Bridges. I’d be curious to know which is used the most.  My guess is the Brooklyn gets the most foot traffic, but I’d bet that the Williamsburg is the most used by regular cyclist and running commuters.  At rush hour, the bike lane can be as congested as the car lanes below.

Its also, like it cousin the Manhattan, utilitarian in design. That appeals to this yankee.  Like the Manhattan (and unlike the Brooklyn) it carries trains in addition to cars, pedestrians, and cyclists.  Its beauty comes not from its majestic design, but from its consistent use.  On my sojourn today, I saw hip kids on vintage bikes, Hasidic families out for stroll, tourists taking pictures of art installations, young Dominicans on their way home from Pride, and runners of every stripe. No one was marveling at the aesthetics of the bridge (ok maybe the tourists were) — everyone was just looking to get somewhere else.

There is a real beauty in that.

IMG_1146

The aesthetic charms of the Bridge

 

From my neighborhood, I reach the Williamsburg by heading down Dean to Bedford, through rapidly gentrifying Crown Heights and Bed Stuy, and up through Hasidic Williamsburg.  Pedestrian access to the bridge is easily located right on Bedford near South Sixth (bike entrance is further down near the South 5th plaza).  Like the Manhattan, don’t be an ass and run on the cyclist side.  No one will like you and you might get hurt.  Exit from the bridge in Manhattan is shared by cyclists and runners and is located on Delancey near Essex.

Dean Street Stencil

Dean Street Stencil

 

From there, you can do as I did – head down Delancey to Bowery, left on Bowery and up and over the Manhattan Bridge home to Brooklyn.  Or you could head cross town to the West Side Greenway. Or uptown on the East Side Greenway.  You could stop and get dim sum, or matzo ball soup, or artisanal cheese. You could take your sweaty ass to the New Museum, or the Tenement Museum, or the Brooklyn Banks.  You’re in lower Manhattan, the world is your oyster.

Lower Manhattan art/ads

Lower Manhattan art/ads

 

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.

IMG_1035

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.

IMG_1039

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.

IMG_1040

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.