Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A View From The Bridge (the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge AKA the Marine Park Bridge, That Is)

And speaking of whales - the work situation has continued to be such that I'm lagging behind in the blogging. Heck, I still haven't finished my Colorado blogging from May, but I'm not skipping that far back today -- that'll make some great fill-in posts on days over the winter when it's too yucky to do anything outside. Nope, today I'm just going back to the first Sunday in November, when I finally made it out whalewatching for the first time in 2017. Work's been crazy, TQ's schedule a little unsettled, I've been running around entertaining myself on weekends as an antidote to the work stress, the list of things that needed to be taken care of on the first possible quiet day at home was getting longer and longer. And then here came November 5th, and I didn't have anything to do, and TQ was going up to CT to help his mom out with some stuff at home (he's a good guy that way), so there it is, the much-needed possible quiet day at home, so of COURSE I do the only sensible thing and buy a ticket to go whalewatching!

Well, it was being billed as the last trip of the season (they did end up being able to add the 3 days after Thanksgiving, but that was totally a bonus) and the stuff at home was basically all stuff that could wait. The weather forecast for the day wasn't great, 40% chance of showers, but it wasn't too cold, I have good clothes for bad weather, and the American Princess has plenty of covered deck areas where you can watch even if it's raining (btw they aren't giving me anything for these plugs I give them, this is purely a hobby blog and unless otherwise mentioned, anything you will ever see plugged here is just being plugged because I think it's neat), and sometimes less-than-perfect weather is a good thing for boat stuff because you just won't have the crowds.

Well, you know you've made a good call when you go to go whalewatching and have already had fun and a really good wildlife sighting before you've even boarded the boat!

The week before, they'd sent out a reminder on Facebook that November 5th was also the day of the NYC Marathon, and to leave lots of extra time for marathon-related traffic delays.

I was taking the Q35 bus, which runs back and forth between my neighborhood in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens - the farther reaches of both boroughs, and not somewhere the marathon comes anywhere close to, but you never know what kind of weird domino effect an event of that size is going to have on above-ground transportation, so I think I left 45 minutes before I needed to, just to be safe. It wasn't at all necessary, everything was running exactly the way it was supposed to and I was at Riis Landing at something like 10:30, with the boat departing at 12:30.

So I had some time to kill and decided to spend it with a bit of a walk on the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge. I've paddled under this bridge more times than I can count, I've been across it a few times in a car or a bus, but I'd never walked on the walkway and I thought that might be fun. And it was! Nice views of the marina at Riis Landing, fun looking down at the swirls as the ebb tide ran around the bridge footings, and at the fishermen working the eddies down there, fun taking some pictures of the bridge from a different angle after taking countless photos of it from down below, and best of all, I spotted one of the peregrine falcons! There's a nesting box on the south tower of the bridge, which I've known about for a while, and that was where I walked to; I wasn't entirely expecting to see one of the falcons, but as I was approaching the tower, I could see a bird perched on one of the stairway landing for workers climbing the tower. Didn't have a great view of it, but as I got closer I could clearly see that it wasn't a seagull or a pigeon, no, it was a much less common silhouette!

I stayed there for a little bit longer and then decided it was time to head back to the American Princess. Gray day, yes, but it was off to an excellent start.

A few interesting bits of trivia about the bridge, from Wikipedia:

- The bridge was built in 1937. (my own note - I always thought the distinctive curly tops of the tower had a whiff of the Jetsonesque design school known as Googie, but the bridge predates that by quite some time)

- The towers hold lift machinery and the section between them raises and lowers vertically to allow large vessels access to and from Jamaica Bay. The center span lifts from 55 feet above the water (doesn't say low or high but I'd guess clearance is measured at high) to 150 feet.

- At the time the bridge was built, it was the longest vertical-lift span for automobiles in the world.

- The bridge connects the Floyd Bennett Field and Riis Park units of the Gateway National Recreation Area, the amazing national park that covers so much of NY harbor, including the Sebago Canoe Club's NYC home, Jamaica Bay. "Gateway Is My Getaway" - perfect slogan I stole from John D., head ranger at Floyd Bennett and also a fellow J-Bay paddler.

- The bridge was named for notable NYC baseball figure Gil Hodges. Baseball fans will probably know who he is, but for the rest of us - he played first base with the Brooklyn Dodgers, finished his playing career with the NY Mets in Queens, and then managed the Mets from 1968 until his early death by heart attack at the age of 47 in 1972. The 1969 "Miracle Mets" won the World Series on his watch. The bridge was named in his honor in 1978. 

More pictures from my pre-whalewatching mini-hike. There are captions this time but click on any photo for more detail.
Looking back toward the marina from the bridge
Walking onto the bridge
Fishermen working the eddy behind the footing of the bridge
Looking in towards Jamaica Bay, where 90% of this blog is set.
Approaching the south tower of the bridge - hey, that's not a gull!
Nope, not the best view ever but that is a peregrine falcon. Very neat sighting!

A couple of artsy bridge shots -

More fishermen - fun seeing kayaks from up here! 

Heading back to Riis Landing

Back on shore at the marina. Sculpture left from an art in the parks event a few years back, according to Catherine Granton, one of the Gotham Whale naturalists. I used a black and white version of this for the Facebook black and white challenge and a friend asked if it was a memorial. I had no idea but Catherine had the answer.

One good urban wildlife sighting down - hello Princess, let's go find more!


Renee Stambaugh said...

This was awesome and I loved the pictures, especially the one of the sculpture....whatever it is...it is very cool!

bonnie said...

Thanks! I was seriously so tickled by the way things worked out. Sometime I'll walk all the way across.

I like the mystery art thing too. I think I've taken the same picture every time I go.

Actually that's kind of a fun idea - maybe I'll dig back through and put up a collection of all the same picture from different days. :)

Jeff K said...

I grew up in Rockaway and the Marine Parkway Bridge was my basic connection to the rest of the world. Back in the day Floyd Bennett was a marine airfield and they practiced launching seaplanes over the bridge. Sometimes the pilot misgauged the lift and flew UNDER the bridge! Amazing thing to see from the shore!

Here is an amazing collection of photos from the MTA showing DEP biologist Chris Nadereski tagging falcon chicks on various NYC bridges, including the Marine Parkway (one photo shows the Rockaway peninsula). Nowadays he wears a hockey mask to avoid getting attacked by the adults... https://www.flickr.com/photos/mtaphotos/sets/72157653430682539