In 1889, the Carroll Street Retractable Bridge crossing the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, NY, opened and today is one of only four retractable bridges remaining in the world.
Built at a cost of $36,742.58, the beloved bridge supports a 17 foot wide roadway and two 4.5 foot sidewalks that are pulled onto the shore on tracks via a cable and pulley system. Landmarked in 1987, the bridge was built to allow horse and wagons to cross the increasingly busy waterway, and still features a sign stating “Any Person Driving over this Bridge Faster than a Walk will be Subject to a Penalty of Five Dollars For Each Offence.”
In 2000, the bridge was surrounded by graffiti and urban decay.
I have photographed the Gowanus Canal, located in one of the densest population centers in America, for over thirty years. In that time, I have seen the real estate around the polluted waterway soar in value. The 1.7 mile long canal is currently in an EPA Superfund cleanup plan that is estimated to be over $1.5 billion, and the entire project won’t be completed until mid-2023. Unfortunately, the developers now rule and high rises will cut off access to what could have been an amazing waterfront for the community.
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