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Monday, December 25, 2023

The Borden Avenue Bridge: A Rare Retractable Relic in New York City

  Rajesh Kumar Rana       Monday, December 25, 2023

The Borden Avenue Bridge is a fascinating and unique piece of New York City history. This retractable bridge, located in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, spans Dutch Kills, a tidal waterway that feeds into Newtown Creek.

The Borden Avenue Bridge

The Borden Avenue Bridge, New York
Image of The Borden Avenue Bridge, NYC 

Key Features and Specifications

  • Carries two lanes for vehicle traffic and two walkways
  • Retractable span measuring 84 feet (26 meters)
  • Total length of 168 feet 6 inches (51.4 meters)
  • Clearance of 1.5 meters at high tide and 2.7 meters at low tide
  • Last retracted in 2005

Nestled in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, New York City, stands a unique and historic bridge: the Borden Avenue Bridge (Wikipedia). This retractile marvel, spanning the Dutch Kills waterway, is a testament to early 20th-century engineering ingenuity and a charming reminder of a bygone era.

See also: 

Queens, New York attractions

A Bridge with a Sliding Personality

Unlike its more common swing bridge counterparts, the Borden Avenue Bridge doesn't raise its drawspans. Instead, its 84-foot main section gracefully slides back on rails, revealing the water passage beneath. This retracting action, once a frequent occurrence to accommodate maritime traffic, is now a rare sight, having last taken place in 2005.

A Century of Service and Stories

Designed by Edward Abraham Byrne and opened in 1908, the Borden Avenue Bridge has witnessed over a century of New York City's dynamic evolution. It has faithfully carried countless vehicles and pedestrians across Dutch Kills, connecting communities and facilitating commerce. Its weathered steel frame and quaint keeper's house whisper tales of bustling industries, changing landscapes, and the ever-flowing pulse of the city.

A Bridge of Distinction

The Borden Avenue Bridge holds a special place not only in Queens' history but also in the national bridge landscape. It is one of only four remaining retractable bridges in the entire United States and one of just two in New York City, the other being the Carroll Street Bridge. This unique mechanism and rich history make the Borden Avenue Bridge a true engineering gem and a beloved local landmark.

Visiting the Borden Avenue Bridge

While the bridge's retractions may be infrequent, its charm is ever-present. A stroll across its deck offers stunning views of Dutch Kills and the surrounding cityscape. The quaint keeper's house adds a touch of nostalgia, and the rhythmic rumble of passing trains on the elevated tracks above creates a unique soundtrack to your exploration.

Whether you're a history buff, an engineering enthusiast, or simply a curious adventurer, the Borden Avenue Bridge is worth seeking out. This rare and remarkable structure is a testament to human ingenuity and a reminder of the beauty and intrigue that lie hidden within the bustling metropolis of New York City.

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