Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today signed legislation to rename the Queensboro Bridge as the “Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge” in honor of the 105th Mayor of the City of New York, Mayor Edward I. Koch. The Mayor proposed the legislation in December and the legislation passed the City Council on March 23, 2011. The legislation, Introductory Number 446-A, was sponsored in conjunction with the Administration by City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Council Members Gail A. Brewer, Fernando Cabrera, Lewis A. Fidler, Vincent J. Gentile, Karen Koslowitz, Michael Nelson, Peter Koo, James Sanders Jr, James F. Gennaro, Mark S. Weprin and David G. Greenfield. Some roadway signs were replaced today and the remaining signs will be replaced over time.
The total cost for replacing all 178 signs is $255,000, with all costs paid for with private donations raised by the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. The Mayor signed the legislation at the Rockefeller University’s Peggy Rockefeller Plaza on the East Side of Manhattan, where he was joined by Mayor Koch, Speaker Quinn and members of the City Council.
“When Ed came to City Hall in 1978, New York was reeling from a financial crisis, the streets were dirty, crime was on the rise, and businesses and residents were fleeing for the suburbs,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “A sense of despair was in the air – and our very future was hanging in the balance. But with his outsized persona and fierce love for the city, Ed Koch launched one of the most remarkable comebacks in history – balancing the books, establishing a sense of order, and before long, people were coming back, new businesses were opening, and New Yorkers began to believe in their in their city again. This was Ed’s greatest achievement. It’s only appropriate that we name something iconic, something great after Mayor Koch and his work in literally saving this bridge and the rest of the city’s bridges is symbolic of his overall legacy of bringing our city back and building for the future.”
“I’m truly overwhelmed by the honor and very grateful to Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn and to the members of the City Council for having made it possible – my deepest thanks,” said Mayor Koch.
“Ed Koch was the bridge that brought New York City back from the brink of bankruptcy to financial solvency,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “And many New Yorkers feel very close to him for that reason. The City Council is proud to pay tribute to Mayor Koch and his decades of public service with this timeless honor.”
When Mayor Koch assumed office, the Queensboro Bridge had reached near-critical condition, with corrosion throughout the bridge and outer roadways were closed because they were no longer safe to use. Much of the bridge had not even been inspected in nearly a decade. Mayor Koch invested in the bridge, starting its first major rehabilitation and bringing the bridge into a state of good repair, similar to the efforts he began on the rest of the City’s bridges.
In 1978, the City had no capital program to repair transportation infrastructure, a causality of the 1970s fiscal crisis. Despite extremely difficult fiscal circumstances, Mayor Koch re-started the Department of Transportation’s capital program and began the work of rebuilding the City’s transportation infrastructure. The City’s East River bridges, including the Queensboro Bridge, had been turned over the New York State for stewardship, as the City was no longer able to maintain the structures. Under Mayor Koch, the City regained control of the bridges and began repairing them. Mayor Koch created the Bureau of Bridges within the Department of Transportation and fully funded the bureau. Previously, bridges were considered an afterthought to highway work and had fallen into a state of disrepair citywide. The City has reduced the number of bridges in poor condition from 74 in 1986 to two today – which are currently undergoing repairs – due to the work of the bureau founded and funded by Mayor Koch.
Often referred to as the 59th Street Bridge, the Queensboro Bridge was opened to traffic on March 30, 1909. The bridge’s construction began in 1901, as a collaboration between bridge engineer Gustav Lindenthal and architect Henry Hornboste, with 75,000 tons of steel going into the original bridge and its approaches. The original cost of construction was approximately $18 million, including $4.6 million for land purchases. At the time of completion, it was the longest cantilever bridge in the United States.
The Queensboro Bridge is the only one of the City’s four East River Bridges that is not a suspension bridge. The length of the main bridge is 3,725 feet, the longest of the East River Bridges. The overall length of the bridge, including the Manhattan and Queens approaches, is 7,449 feet.