Ocean Avenue Bridge, Brooklyn

When I thought that I knew all that there is to know about a particular waterway, I stumble upon drawings of unrealized visions for such streams. On Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay one can walk on the longest pedestrian-only bridge across a waterway that is inside a borough, the Ocean Avenue Footbridge. On the mainland side of the bridge, Ocean Avenue is very wide as one of Brooklyn’s major north-south routes, running for 5.5 miles north to Prospect Park.

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In reality the bridge is a block to the west of Ocean Avenue. But the real question here is why is the three-block Manhattan Beach segment of Ocean Avenue so wide if it does not connect to any other major roads?

The Unbuilt Bridge

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From the city’s Municipal Archives there is a detailed rendering of the Proposed Bridge Over Sheepshead Bay at Ocean Avenue, produced in 1917. Its style is a last cry of beaux arts just before the art moderne and art deco movements would do away with the wrought iron railings and fancy light fixtures that acting chief engineer Edward A. Byrne had envisioned for this bridge.

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A closer look at this rendering shows this crossing as a drawbridge, perhaps indicating that in 1917 the planned Coney Island Canal was not yet dead. Atop the gantries would have been plaques naming the bridge and its builders. Trolley tracks would have meant a quick ride from the heart of Brooklyn to the hotels of Manhattan Beach. This route is used by today’s B49 bus, which swings around Sheepshead Bay before terminating at Manhattan Beach. Notice the details on the cars of that period.

Without doubt the residents of this fancy neighborhood would rather have preferred geographic isolation than to have hordes of summer beachgoers invading their streets. This bridge was never built, but its appearance resembles those on Harlem River, and Boston’s Fort Point Channel.

One thought on “Ocean Avenue Bridge, Brooklyn

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