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Queens

First visits to: Roosevelt Avenue Bridge, Long Island Expressway Bridge, Northern Blvd. Bridge, Van Wyck Expressway Bridge, Porpoise Bridge

Route Map – 3.6 miles (from the 7 Train)     (Click on any image for a larger view)

I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather today to log some bridges and burn off some of yesterday’s excess Thanksgiving calories, traveling via my other favorite mode of human-powered transport: my bicycle.

The list of bridges from Wikipedia that I started this project with doesn’t even mention the Flushing River.  It wasn’t until I was checking the route for our Whitestone Bridge trip that I noticed this little waterway near Willets Point. Seeing it, you have to admit that calling it a river is a rather grandiose gesture; even Maspeth Creek and the Gowanus Canal have greater length and depth.

I rode the bike along the Hudson River path to 42nd Street, then over to Port Authority where I boarded the 7 train to Mets-Willets Point Station in Flushing, Queens.  Turns out the first bridge — Roosevelt Avenue — was easy to find: the 7 Train tracks are on the bridge.  All I had to do was ride under the tracks along the pedestrian/automobile level to the bridge.

(A side note: I don’t know where Flushing got its name, but the area around the Flushing river smells like that’s what the city is sending into it.)

My next bridge was the Long Island Expressway Bridge.  Impossible to access by bicycle or foot, but I got shots of it through the chain link fence where the Roosevelt Avenue Bridge passes over it.

From Roosevelt Avenue I turned left onto College Point Blvd., riding past dozens of construction supply yards (lumber, stone, concrete, etc.) to the Northern Blvd. Bridge.  I got a good shot of it from the parking lot behind the U-HAUL, but the best shot was through the chain-link fence on the northern side of the Roosevelt Avenue Bridge.

Northern Blvd. Bridge over the Flushing River

A bit further along I reached the Van Wyck Expressway Bridge:

Van Wyck Expressway Bridge over the Flushing River

From here I turned and rode back along College Point Blvd. to 41st Avenue, then cut through the Home Depot parking lot, which eventually got me to the Avery Avenue entrance to Flushing Meadows.  It took a bit of searching to find the next bridge, but eventually I located the Porpoise Bridge near the 16th hole of the Pitch-n-Putt:

Porpoise Bridge over the Flushing River, in Flushing Meadows

From the Porpoise Bridge, I was able to see the LIRR trestle that crosses the river.  It is really a dike with a couple of small conduits under it to let water through – nothing you could count as a bridge; there’s certainly no way you could pass under it in a kayak. But the spot does afford a nice view of the  Roosevelt Avenue Bridge — I even got the shot with a 7 Train running over it.

From Flushing Meadows it was an easy matter to hop back on the 7 Train and head home.  I look forward to visiting these bridges again via kayak next spring or summer.

First visits to: Throg’s Neck Bridge, Whitestone Bridge, Riker’s Island Bridge, Hell Gate BridgeRobert F. Kennedy (Triborough) Bridge (Randall’s Island to Queens); [name] Bridge (under construction)

Repeat visit to: Queensborough (59th Street) Bridge (Manhattan to Roosevelt Island); Ward’s Island (Randall’s Island) Bridge

Route Map – 14.5 miles     More photos on Facebook       (click on any image for a larger view)

Our expedition: Luis M, Nick B (behind), Rosalba, Larry L, me (RaNae), Violet D, Bob, Carlos N, and Derrick M from our launch site at Fort Totten, with the Throg’s Neck Bridge in the background.

Saturday, September 29 we paddled from Fort Totten to the Long Island City Community Boathouse (LICCB) with 7 members of Sebago Canoe Club and LICCB.  Our friend Larry L, who accompanied us on last week’s circumnavigation of Jamaica Bay, organized the trip for us, including transporting kayaks by car to and from Fort Totten.

The day got a bit of a rocky start when the 7 train shut down due to electrical problems, forcing Rosalba and I to re-route our trip to Long Island City.  Eventually we got there via the E train, where Bob and Violet picked us up.  Nevertheless, we made it to Fort Totten Park in time for our 11:00 launch.

Bridge #1 for the day was the Throg’s Neck Bridge.

The Throg’s Neck Bridge, from Fort Totten Park

After passing under the Throg’s Neck, we paddled past amazing waterfront properties along College Point en route to the Whitestone Bridge.

The Whitestone Bridge

After passing the Whitestone Bridge we had to make a decision, whether to go north past Riker’s Island — where the prison is — or to go south of it in order to pass under the Riker’s Island Bridge. We weren’t sure if the bridge was a restricted area, but decided to go for it and hope for the best.

In order to take that route, we had to paddle past the end of one of the runways at LaGuardia Airport.  It was pretty wild watching planes take off right over our heads.  It felt as if you could hook your paddle over the landing gear and fly away.

As it turns out, we were able to pass under the Riker’s Island Bridge.

The Riker’s Island Bridge

We decided to stop for lunch at Barretto Point Park (the appeal of clean flush toilets was irrestible). Not only did this give us a rest, but it let a bit of time pass so we would not be going through Hell Gate at full ebb tide, which, as NYC kayakers know, can be a pretty wild ride.

A barge was coming down the channel behind us around North Brother Island, so we waited for it to pass in an inlet off the northeast corner of Randall’s Island where we spotted another bridge, this one currently closed for reconstruction.  That’s Nick, one of the trip directors from LICCB and a super-experienced kayaker, who represented LICCB on the trip.  [name of this bridge?]

Once the barge passed, we headed into Hell Gate. We have heard many stories about how treacherous the current can be here, so we were quite glad to find it relatively calm. The bridge is beautiful, and we got a fantastic view of both the Hell Gate Bridge and the Triborough Bridge as we passed.

The Robert F. Kennedy (formerly Triborough) Bridge has three spans. Rosalba passed under the Manhattan-Randall’s Island span on the Manhattan circumnavigation but we had not yet visited this span, which goes from Randall’s Island to Queens.

Coming around the bottom of Randall’s Island, we got this beautiful view of the Ward’s Island (Randall’s Island) Bridge.  (Rosalba visited it on the Manhattan circumnavigation, but it was at night so the pictures didn’t turn out.)

Traveling south from Randall’s Island, we took the western channel past Roosevelt Island, passing under the Manhattan span of the Queensboro Bridge.

Finally, making a hook around the south end of Roosevelt Island, we arrived back at LICCB.  We quickly stowed our gear and took off because the Gowanus Dredgers’ fundraiser was that night.

It was another fantastic day of kayaking. (Did I mention the air was cool and the water was warm?) Thank you Larry for setting this up, to LICCB for their generous assistance and to everyone who joined us.  See you on the water again soon!

First visits to: Marine Parkway/Gil Hodges Bridge; Cross Bay Veteran’s Memorial Bridge (aka Broad Channel Bridge); South Channel Subway Bridge; Grassy Point Subway Bridge; Joseph P. Addabbo Memorial Bridge; Old Mill Creek Bridge; Hendrix Creek Bridge; Fresh Creek Bridge; Paerdegat Basin Bridge

Route Map – Total miles: 14.8         More Photos on Facebook    (click any photo to enlarge)

We couldn’t have said a more beautiful goodbye to summer than we did on Friday, September 21 when — thanks to Commodore Tony Pignatello and our new friends from Sebago Canoe Club — we did a circumnavigation of Jamaica Bay and logged nine more bridges.

We launched from Jacob Riis Park, at the foot of the Marine Parkway/Gil Hodges Bridge.
Our paddling companions for the day were Leona S (second from left, between me and Rosalba), Larry, Walter (incoming Commodore-elect of Sebago Canoe Club), Tony P (outgoing Commodore of Sebago Canoe Club), Vivian, and Carlos N.  The day was a perfect 75 degrees with a light breeze, though the breeze was in our face most of the day.

The Cross Bay Veteran’s Memorial Bridge (aka Broad Channel Bridge) was our next destination:

As we approached the South Channel Subway Bridge, we watched A trains cross the bridge while overhead planes approached for landing at JFK Airport:

We stopped for lunch at a little beach just alongside the bridge, then it was under the bridge and away. The South Channel Subway Bridge actually has two parts. Here’s Tony getting a photo of Part Two:

From here we had a rather long and challenging paddle past the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge as the current and wind kept trying to turn us to starboard (right) which would have ended us up on a runway at JFK. But this part was also the most rewarding — we saw many egrets, herons, ospreys and other waterbirds, while fish jumped from the water — sometimes entire schools all at once.

Our next bridge was the Grassy Point Subway Bridge:

We stopped again to rest on another small beach before passing under the Joseph P. Addabbo Memorial Bridge. When we arrived, we found coconuts on the beach . . . had we paddled all the way to the tropics?  No, it was the remnants of a Hindu religious ceremony.

Under the bridge and on to the next one . . .

We were well into the afternoon now, with about 3/4 of the mileage covered, but three of the last four bridges — all part of the Belt Parkway — were up on creeks that feed into the bay.  The first was Old Mill Creek Bridge:

With arms, shoulders and camera batteries starting to give out, the rest of the group waited while Carlos accompanied Rosalba and I up to the bridge and back, which took nearly an hour, running against current and wind.

The Hendrix Creek Bridge was not so far from the bay, but we decided just to get close enough for a photograph and keep going.  Unfortunately, that was when my phone/camera battery died.  Tony took this photo for us:

Hendrix Creek Bridge

Thankfully, Fresh Creek Bridge was an easy shot from the bay. Tony again did photography duty and we carried on.

Fresh Creek Bridge

Our last bridge was the Paerdegat Basin Bridge.  At first I didn’t recognize it, because the last time I saw it, on August 30, there was still a construction crane on it.  Right now there are two bridges there — the old one, and a new one which is still under construction. The crane was gone. Until the other side of the new bridge is open the old bridge will serve westbound traffic.  Once the new westbound section of the bridge is complete, the plan is that the old bridge will be demolished.

Paerdegat Basin Bridge

On Paerdegat Basin – almost home!

Paerdegat Basin is the home of the Sebago Canoe Club and we were tired but happy when we reached its dock.  We want to again thank both Commodores and the members of the club who shared their knowledge of Jamaica Bay, their time and even their club equipment to help us accomplish this part of our goal. Also thanks to John Daskalakis at Jacob Riis Park, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, who lent us two Zest sit-atop double kayaks.

First visits to: Hunters Point Avenue / 49th Avenue Bridge, Long Island Expressway Bridge

Route Map       More Photos on Facebook       (click on any photos in this post for a larger view)


Today was a historic day for NYC water rats – see that little beach behind us? That’s Stuyvesant Cove and today was the first day that the City allowed kayakers to beach there.  I took 5 friends down to hook up with Long Island CIty Community Boats and we paddled back to LICCB’s boathouse at Anable Basin.  That’s Erika M (she was on the last Hallet’s Cove trip), Dianna H, Me, Leona S (an Aussie and a rower), Rosie and her boyfriend Daniele, visiting from Italy.

Once we were back in Long Island City, I realized we were close to the two bridges we missed on our Newtown Creek adventure two weeks ago. Both bridges span Dutch Kills, a tributary of Newtown Creek (“kills” means stream or creek in Dutch, so you can imagine how old the name is). Here is the Hunters Point Avenue / 49th Avenue  bridge:

This bridge looks really old to me; it makes me think of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. Something about those lights — they look as though they could be whale oil or kerosene — and the lashing around the pilings (is that what they are called?) to protect the bridge, and the old stonework. Rosie’s boyfriend Daniele is visiting from Italy right now — that’s him in the photo at left.

Our other “missing” bridge was the Long Island Expressway bridge over Dutch Kills. Rosalba likes the symmetry of this view — both from side to side and the reflection in the almost-still water. In the background you can also see the blue-painted Borden Avenue Bridge. And I’m really curious to know what that grey house is — it looks like it’s from the colonial era.

Given the extreme pollution of Newtown Creek between Queens & Brooklyn, Rosie & have decided not to do it by kayak, and to take advantage of Mitch Waxman’s walking tour instead. http://www.newtowncreekalliance.org/2012/07/20/tour-the-insalubrious-valley-with-nca-historian-mitch-waxman-aug-5/

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First visits to: Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, Grand Street Bridge, Kosciusko Bridge, Greenpoint Avenue Bridge (officially, John Jay Byrne Bridge), Borden Avenue Bridge, Pulaski Bridge. two LIRR train trestles, and Maspeth Plank Road (1/2 a bridge)

Route Map        More Photos   (click on any photos in this post for a larger view)

Today was 5-1/2 miles of walking through the industrial underbelly of New York City — a hot, desolate and dirty trek along Newtown Creek, English Kills, Maspeth Creek and Dutch Kills — what Mitch Waxman describes as (taking the name from a 19th century newspaper editorial) “the insalubrious valley”.

The history of the area, in a nutshell, is that for the last 400 years, Newtown Creek has been the dumping ground for the waste of every dirty industry that New York City needed to have close enough to provide for it, but wanted far away enough not to smell it.  The actual creek bed is about 35 feet below the surface of the water; that is buried under about 20 feet of “black mayonnaise”: a toxic slime of industrial, animal and human waste.  Ergo Mitch’s instructions: wash your hands before you touch any food at lunchtime, and take a shower as soon as you get home. For more info about the history of Newtown Creek, see NCA’s website at http://www.newtowncreekalliance.org/history/

Rosabla & I at the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge

The south side of Metropolitan Avenue Bridge.

Our first bridge of the day was the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge. At the end of this channel (which is English Kills, a tributary to Newtown Creek*) is a CSO (combined sewer overflow) that dumps over 500 billion gallons of toxic runoff into the creek each year. That’s 2% of the toxic runoff of the entire city of New York. The water is brown with the runoff of last night’s thunderstorm.

Grand Street Bridge

The next bridge of the day was Grand Street Bridge.

A tug boat that hauls barges of fuel up Newtown Creek

Several thousand industrial-size trucks cross the Metropolitan Avenue and Grand Street bridges every day. These bridges were built approximately 100 years ago, and such heavy use was never contemplated in their design. A  single barge can haul as much as up to 56 trucks worth of cargo. One way to lessen the pollution of the Newtown Creek area and reduce wear on these critical bridges would be a return to using trains and barges to transport goods in and out of the area.

The site of the Maspeth Plank Road

One interesting stop for us bridge-lovers along Mitch’s tour was the site of the former Maspeth Plank Road. This was a wooden bridge that existed from 1836 to 1875, spanning Maspeth Creek between what were then Mussel Island and Furman Island. In the early 20th century, Mussel Island was removed (by the Army Corps of Engineers?) and the material was used to fill in the space between Furman Island and the bank of Maspeth Creek, effectively causing two islands to disappear. (This is the 1/2 bridge in our bridge count.)

After lunch at the historic Clinton Diner (recently renamed Goodfellas Diner thanks to its role in that film, as well as dozens of other films and TV shows) Rosalba and I continued on our own, following directions from Mitch.

Bridge #3 (and-a-half) of the day was the Kosciusko Bridge, which is scheduled to be demolished and rebuilt between 2013 and 2020. This was the first one of the day that we could get under, but we were unable to get to where it actually crosses Newtown creek. Rosalba, a bridge engineer, is listening to the bridge “sing”.

Someone should have posted a sign that said “Beware of Skiploaders”!

Bridge #4 (and-a-half) was the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge (officially known as the John Jay Byrne Bridge). In order to get to it we had to walk through the yard of New York Paving Company. Thank you to the gruff-looking guy who said “You don’t look like terrorists — go ahead. It’s kinda greasy, but there’s a pier over there behind those trucks.”

Bridge #5 (and-a-half) was the Borden Avenue Bridge, which spans Dutch Kills, a tributary of Newtown Creek that extends north into Queens. I was quite surprised — after passing through such an industrial, polluted landscape — to discover that it crosses over a field of wildfllowers. I don’t know what the structure is that they are growing over, or what purpose it serves, but it was really nice to find it. And to see the bridge freshly-painted in a really lovely blue.

As you can see in the photo above, the Long Island Expressway runs parallel to the Borden Avenue Bridge. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring with me the map I had printed out the night before from Google. If I hadn’t, I would have noticed that the LIE does, in fact, have a bridge that crosses Dutch Kills, as does Hunters Point Avenue. Fortunately, these are close enough to the East Side Ferry that we’ll be able to make a return trip fairly quickly and easily. On a cooler day . . .

(The temperature today was around 90. How much nicer it would have been to do this by kayak — if that had not involved risking our health and the health of Rosalba’s as-yet-unconceived children.)

At the Borden Avenue Bridge I saw these two “mystery bridges” not listed on the Wikipedia list. A close look at the map showed that they are two LIRR trestles. The front one is on a spur that goes up to the yards between Skillman Avenue and 21st Street. The one behind is on the line that goes to the service yard just north of 54th Street, near the East River Ferry dock. (Bridges #6 & #7 — and don’t forget that half)

Our last bridge (#8-1/2) of the day — the Pulaski Bridge. The only point of access we could find that would give us a look from down under was the parking lot of the Fresh Direct warehouse. Note the CSO sign (really, how could you miss it?) Nice to know this is where our food is coming from. Actually, most of the food import and distribution warehouses for New York City are located in the Newtown Creek area. Makes you think a little more money for organic might not be such a bad idea . . .

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* “Kills” is a Dutch word for “creek”