Photos: NYC Parks / Daniel Avila

A two-borough celebration is held for NYC’s oldest standing bridge

On June 6, NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue joined NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, NYC Department of Design and Construction First Deputy Commissioner Eric Macfarlane, Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, Council Member Carmen De La Rosa, Council Member Althea Stevens, Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Sonia Manzano (Maria from “Sesame Street”), Bronx Children’s Museum, Chauncy Young of Harlem River Working Group, community organizations, local residents, and students to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the High Bridge

Opened in 1848 as part of the Old Croton Aqueduct, the city’s first reliable water supply system, the High Bridge is the oldest standing bridge in New York City and connects Manhattan with the Bronx. After being closed for more than 40 years, the bridge was reopened in 2015 after an extensive reconstruction project conducted by Parks in partnership with the Department of Design and Construction. The restoration of the High Bridge once again reconnected the boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx with more than 125 acres of green space in Highbridge Park.  

“We’re thrilled to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the High Bridge, which was rehabilitated and reopened to the public in 2015 after being closed for more than four decades,” said Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue. “An engineering marvel when it opened in 1848 as part of the Old Croton Aqueduct, the bridge now serves as an important pedestrian and bicycling connection between the Bronx and Manhattan—bringing communities together, providing easier access to Highbridge Park on both sides of the Harlem River, and creating an essential link to New York City’s expanding waterfront Greenway.” 

The anniversary celebration featured processions of musicians, community members, and students originating from both the Bronx and Manhattan sides of the bridge. The contingents met in the middle for a ceremony that featured local youth performers and was capped off by an FDNY fireboat display in the Harlem River. 

Following the ceremony, the Urban Park Rangers provided tours of the historic Highbridge Water Tower, and NYC DEP opened the Manhattan Gatehouse, which pumped water for the Old Croton Aqueduct, to the public for the first time.  

“Happy Birthday to not only New York City’s oldest bridge, but one that will play such an important role as a Greenway connector between the Bronx and Manhattan in the future,” said New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “I’ve been a long-time supporter of the bridge’s renovation dating back to my time in the City Council and I look forward to helping spearhead the Harlem River Greenway’s development with the High Bridge as one of its great centerpieces.” 

“The High Bridge is an absolutely essential piece of our city’s history as it delivered the reliable supply of water that allowed New York to grow into the world’s capital,” said New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Rohit T. Aggarwala. “The High Bridge served the growing city well for nearly a century and thanks to the passionate communities on both sides of the Harlem River, today it still stands as a monument to human innovation and the history of our great city.” 

“Once a vital source of fresh water, the High Bridge now links our city’s rich past to the present as a pedestrian bridge that provides residents and visitors with stunning waterfront views of Manhattan and the Bronx at 100 feet above the Harlem River,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson. “It is a true marvel, and we are proud to share this gem with our neighbors in Manhattan. I want to thank the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct, the Urban Park Rangers and the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation for their collective work to maintain the structure as well as their efforts to keep the High Bridge accessible and relevant to a new generation of New Yorkers.” 

“For 175 years, the High Bridge has not only spanned the physical distance between two boroughs but has also bridged the gaps between cultures, generations, and dreams. The historical landmark has been a lifeline for countless individuals, enabling opportunities for work, education, and exploration,” said Council Member Althea Stevens. “Our continuous investment in the High Bridge connector will continuously nurture our unity and diverse cultures that have shaped the communities of the West Bronx and Washington Heights into the dynamic duo it is today. Let us commit ourselves to preserve this treasured landmark for future generations and make this a space for young people and families to enjoy.”  

“Continued investment in our open spaces is crucial to the well-being and quality of life of all New Yorkers. Uptown and the Bronx have a rich history, access to amazing parks, and passionate community leaders, and the High Bridge is a testament to that,” said Council Member Carmen De La Rosa. “The High Bridge has symbolically and physically connected sister communities for almost two centuries, and we will continue to build on that history to ensure shared successes.” 

“Manhattan’s northernmost community of Washington Heights & Inwood is delighted to join our Bronx neighbors and our partners in government today to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the historic High Bridge,” said Community Board 12, Manhattan Chair Katherine Díaz. “Community Board 12, Manhattan was a proud and ardent supporter of the reopening in 2015 of New York City’s oldest bridge and the later renovation of the Highbridge Water Tower. As Sonia Manzano, Sesame Street’s beloved “Maria,” so poignantly noted, ‘It’s OK to start a project that you might not see fulfilled.’ We are thrilled to be able to see this dream realized, and for so many children from both boroughs to be inspired by this feat of engineering.”