Prior to development, a storm surge could inundate the entirety of Flushing Meadows, transforming the expansive salt marsh into an arm of the East River. In advance of the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair, the marsh was filled in and transformed into a fairground.
To keep out storm tides, a bridge was constructed across Flushing Creek in 1938, separating the saltwater section downstream from the tide-free freshwater section on the other side of the bridge.
In contrast to the other automobile bridges spanning Flushing Creek, Tidal Gate Bridge was never intended for a major thoroughfare, carrying two lanes of traffic for the park’s perimeter road. It is in a very unattractive state at this time but looking at the rounded bridge piers and metal railings, we see hints of the larger art deco cityscape that was the 1939 World’s Fair.
Looking at each bridge pier, we can imagine how they looked in 1939, when each had a flagpole with two flags on each pier, and a chain-link fence on the bridge’s northern side that had vines growing on it.
According to city documents, this bridge is approximately 37 feet wide and 370 feet long. Under the north side of the bridge, there is a floodwater flow control structure consisting of upper and lower tide gate, stop log slots and a trash rack system. In contrast to the Bridge of Wheels and Bridge of Wings that crossed Grand Central Parkway for the 1939 World’s Fair, the tidal gate bridge never had an official name on the World’s Fair maps. One map titled it as “Spillway.” It was last reconstructed in 1984 and sometime around then received its current name: Porpoise Bridge.
It is one of many Henry Stern-isms on the park’s map, others being Fountain of the Grapes of Wrath and Fountain of the Planet of the Apes. The park perimeter road atop this bridge has been known as Meridian Road since the 1964 World’s Fair.
The bridge still serves its purpose to this day. In October 2012 when Hurricane Sandy flooded many low-lying areas along the city’s shores and power was out, two Parks workers, Scott Jordan and Gustave Menocal noticed the tide gates were in an open position and spent an hour cranking it closed by hand ahead of an incoming tide. Their action saved the core of the park from serious flooding.
Although the bridge is nothing to write home about, it is close to a couple of popular park attractions, the pitch and putt golf course on its western side and the indoor pool and ice skating rink on its eastern side.
Other Places to Cross Flushing Creek:
- Northern Boulevard
- Roosevelt Avenue
- Strong’s Causeway / Long Island Expressway
- Jewel Avenue
- Head of the Vleigh
In the News:
Manhattan College News in Riverdale, Bronx reports on one student’s research relating to daylighting Tibbetts Brook.
National Geographic reports on the restoration of Elwha River in Washington state following the largest dam removal in the country.