The Henry Hudson Bridge–75 Years above the Sputyen Duyvil

As with other key pieces of New York City’s infrastructure–like the George Washington Bridge, which opened in 1931 and which I recently blogged about here and here–the Henry Hudson Bridge also began carrying traffic in the 1930s, Dec. 11, 1936, to be exact. Reading Michael M. Grynbaum’s City Room item in the Times, I’m fascinated to see again, whether it was at the beginning of the Depression, or midway through that difficult decade, the city maintained its commitment to creating new and necessary infrastructure. It is regrettable that Robert Moses–never a friend to common folks or to New Yorkers who didn’t own automobiles–rammed this bridge through the last stand of virgin forest in Manhattan, but at least seventy-five years later, we do still have the bridge carrying travelers in and out of the city, hundreds of feet above the body of water known as the Spuyten Duyvil.

Contrast that willingness to build, to see social need and respond to it with civic improvements, with the timidity of many public officials today. Gov. Christie of New Jersey canceled the ARC tunnel that would have brought trade and goods into the city under NY Harbor and the Hudson River, to be paid for with bonds and the contribution of federal money. The right-wing claims that we’re “broke” should be interpreted as them saying they really have no vision for what the city and region will need a half-century or 75 years from now.

As odious a public official as I find Robert Moses to have been, I would vastly prefer someone like him to the visionless so-called leaders we have today. Yes, it’s a pity that Moses didn’t ultimately uphold the progressive ideals to which he subscribed early in his career, as shown by Robert Caro in The Power Broker, but at least he left something behind that remains useful to denizens of the region today. All that Gov. Christie is going to leave posterity is a lot of hot air.

The Henry Hudson Bridge, almost completed, circa 1936.

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