The Naked City


That was tonight’s Netflix special.  Sort of a 1948 version of Law & Order, on location in New York, following the police solve a crime, pre-high tech forensics.  And of course, Sam Waterston doesn’t have to put up with a world-wise voice-over giving advice to detectives and criminals alike.  The narration flattens out what could be a pretty compelling story.

Towards the end, though, at the climactic chase scene, we get some terrific views of and from the Williamsburg Bridge:

For people not from Brooklyn

Nooooooooo!

Not only is the bridge still there, but like many of Manhattan’s bridges, you can still walk across it.  Notice the subway train coming in the opposite direction down the middle?

Run Garza, Run!

And a picture I happened to take a couple of years ago:

They replaced the lower fence, and added a taller grill to the outside as well, probably to discourage people from jumping, or climbing the gridwork.  They also paved the walkway, and added instructions for bikers and pedestrians about which way to face.

This shot was perhaps the most interesting:

You could spend a day figuring this out.  Fortunately, I had some help.  The bridge currently carrier cars, the subway, and foot traffic, but it used to have trolleys and streetcars as well.  The streetcars would be permanently gone by the end of 1948, but continued to operate on the south side of the bridge until then.  This picture was taken on the north side of the bridge, which had evidently already been given over to automobile traffic.  Look at which way the cars under the bridge are headed.  This only makes sense if the plea for politeness posted from the walkway is for cars travelling away from you, and the north side handles two-way car traffic.

At the same time, while the subway wouldn’t stop in the middle of the bridge, those towers actually go all the way down to the ground (we’re near the Manhattan end of the bridge here), and were meant to provide access to the streetcars.  If you wanted to change directions, you needed to cross over the bridge, and on foot, this was the only place you could do that until the other end of the bridge, over in Brooklyn.  Thus the catwalk across the bridge, which has since been removed:

Aside from the Google labeling that turns the picture into a scene from the new BBC Sherlock Holmes production, I can’t help but think this is a depressing come-down for the bridge.  They kept the circular stairway, but you can’t get there from there, so the walkways and towers would be purely decorative, if they weren’t so ugly.

We can’t end on that picture.  We just can’t.

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