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Massive renovation work set for High Bridge

Bronx Times

A colossal relic linking two boroughs to the past is getting a $61 million facelift.

City, state and federal officials broke ground (again) Jan. 11 on the High Bridge, the 1,200-foot-long pedestrian bridge tucked in its namesake neighborhood.

The suspended walkway connects Highbridge in the Bronx to the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, offering a vast, breathtaking view of the Harlem River.

“Generations of children who grew up here have been cut off by Manhattan’s High Bridge Park,” said Mayor Bloomberg, announcing the groundbreaking with students from New Settlement School. “Those days will soon be over.”

Work will start within the next few weeks. Several add-ons to the landmark bridge include new street lamps, safety fencing and handicapped-accessible ramps.

The city’s oldest pedestrian bridge, bypassing the Brooklyn Bridge by 33 years, is symbolic of a bygone era.

“It connects our past and present,” said Bloomberg.

“I can walk safely to the bridge to see my grandmother who lives in Washington Heights,” said Jocselyn Fuentes, a sixth grader at New Settlement School.

A High Bridge historian, Jocselyn has brushed up her knowledge of the famed bridge, interviewing those who recalled the bridge’s luster.

Standing on towering arches, the Romanesque bridge was originally designed as a filtration system 165 years ago, harnessing water from the Croton River into the Manhattan’s High Bridge water tower.

“When it was built, it immediately became a tourist attraction,” said Bronx historian Lloyd Ultan. “There was an amusement park and several hotels on the Bronx side.”

Efforts to revitalize High Bridge go back to the late 1980s, yet funding was always scant.

City officials led the way in restoring the bridge in 2005 through the PlaNYC initiative with Congressman Jose Serrano covering the balance, earmarking $5 million in federal funds.

“It is truly a bridge that will bring people together,” said Serrano, adding many Highbridge residents have relatives in Washington Heights and vice-versa.

Work on the bridge is expected to wrap up in fall of 2014.

“It’s opening will be a great symbol of a very bright future,” said Bloomberg.

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or dcruz@cnglocal.com.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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