The Queensboro Bridge carries
New York State Route 25 (NY 25), which terminates at the bridge's western end in Manhattan, and also once carried
NY 24 and
NY 25A. The western leg of the Queensboro Bridge is flanked on its northern side by the freestanding
Roosevelt Island Tramway. The bridge was, for a long time, simply called the Queensboro Bridge, but in March 2011, the bridge was officially renamed in honor of former New York City mayor
The Queensboro Bridge is a two-level double
cantilever bridge, with separate cantilevered spans over channels on each side of
Roosevelt Island joined by a fixed central truss. In all it has five spans, including approaches between the cantilevered sections and each terminus. Their lengths are as follows:
Manhattan to Roosevelt Island span length (cantilever): 1,182 ft (360 m)
Roosevelt Island span length: 630 ft (190 m)
Roosevelt Island to Queens span length (cantilever): 984 ft (300 m)
Manhattan approach span 469.5 ft (143.1 m)
Queens approach span 459 ft (140 m)
Total length between anchorages: 3,724 ft (1,135 m)
Total length including approaches: 7,449 ft (2,270 m)
Until it was surpassed by the
Quebec Bridge in 1917, the span between Manhattan and Roosevelt Island was the longest cantilever in North America.
The upper level of the bridge has four lanes of automobile traffic, consisting of two roadways with two lanes in each directions. It provides a view of the bridge's cantilever truss structure and the New York skyline. Although the two upper level roadways both end at Thomson Avenue on the Queens side, they diverge in opposite directions on the Manhattan side. The lanes used by westbound traffic, located on the northern side of the bridge, lead north to 62nd and 63rd Streets. On the other hand, the lanes normally used by eastbound traffic are located on the southern side of the bridge lead south to 57th and 58th Streets. The roadway to 57th and 58th Streets is used as a westbound
high-occupancy vehicle lane during morning rush hours.
The lower level has five vehicular lanes, the inner four for automobile traffic and the southern outer lane for automobile traffic as well, used exclusively for Queens-bound traffic. The North Outer Roadway was converted into a permanent pedestrian walk and bicycle path in September 2000.
The Manhattan approach to the bridge is supported on a series of
Guastavino tile vaults which formed the elegant ceiling of the former Food Emporium Bridge Market and the restaurant Guastavino's, located under the bridge. Originally, this open air promenade was known as Bridgemarket and was part of Hornbostel's attempt to make the bridge more hospitable in the city. In February 2020, it was announced that
Trader Joe's is planning to open a
supermarket in this space, which opened in December 2021.
Looking east from Manhattan toward Queens
Bridgemarket on Manhattan side
Bridge seen from Manhattan, c. 1908
Serious proposals for a bridge linking Manhattan to Long Island City were first made as early as 1838, and attempts to finance such a bridge were made by a private company beginning in 1867. Its efforts never came to fruition and the company went bankrupt in the 1890s. Successful plans finally came about in 1903 – after the creation in 1898 of Greater New York City through the amalgamation of Manhattan (New York City), Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island – under the new city's Department of Bridges, led by
Gustav Lindenthal, who was appointed to the new position of Commissioner of Bridges in 1902, in collaboration with
Leffert L. Buck and
Henry Hornbostel, designers of the
Construction soon began, but it would take until 1909 for the bridge to be completed due to delays from the collapse of an incomplete span during a windstorm, and from labor unrest, which included an attempt to dynamite one span. The bridge opened for public use on March 30, 1909, having cost about $18 million and 50 lives. There was a ten-cent toll to drive over the bridge. The bridge's ceremonial grand opening was held on June 12, 1909. At the time, it was the fourth longest bridge in the world. The grand opening included a fireworks display. The bridge was then known as the Blackwell's Island Bridge, from an earlier name for
The bridge's upper level originally contained two pedestrian walkways and two
elevated railway tracks (which connected a spur of the
IRT Second Avenue Elevated Line in Manhattan to the
Queensboro Plaza station in Queens). Three lanes of roadway were installed on the south side of the upper level in 1931, replacing the former upper-level walkway. All service on the Second Avenue Elevated was discontinued in 1942. From 1955 to 1958, two additional lanes were built on the upper level. The upper-level ramps on the Queens end of the bridge were built during the same time.
The lower deck originally hosted four motor traffic lanes, and what is now the "outer roadway" and pedestrian walk were two trolley lanes. A trolley connected passengers from Queens and Manhattan to a stop in the middle of the bridge, where passengers could take an elevator or the stairs down to Roosevelt Island. The trolley operated from the bridge's opening until April 7, 1957. The trolley lanes and mid-bridge station, as well as the stairs, were removed in the 1950s following the trolley's discontinuation, and for the next few decades the bridge carried 11 lanes of automobile traffic.
In 1919, an elevator building called the elevator storehouse was built adjacent to the bridge on the north side located about where the current tram station is to transport cars and passengers to what was then called Welfare Island, now Roosevelt Island. It was known as the "upside-down" building because its main entrance was on the 10th floor, the height of the bridge deck. This provided access to the hospitals on the island. This building has now been demolished. Then, in 1955, the
Welfare Island Bridge from
Queens opened, allowing automobile and truck access to the island and the only non-aquatic means in and out of the island; the vehicular elevator to Queensboro Bridge then closed. As late as August 1973, a separate passenger elevator ran during the work week from near the Queens end of the bridge to Welfare Island via the Welfare Island Elevator Storehouse, which was described at the time as "clean but gloomy".
The bridge was repainted over a seven-month period starting in November 1966. The $240,000 project was the bridge's first repainting in 14 years. The city government considered implementing tolls on the four free East River bridges, including the Queensboro, in 1971. On November 23, 1973, the
New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) designated the Queensboro Bridge as a city landmark, preventing the bridge from being modified without LPC approval. It was the second East River bridge to be so designated, after the
Brooklyn Bridge. While there were concerns that the landmark status could prevent tollbooths from being installed, planners said the landmark designation did not affect the proposal, as tollbooths could just be installed on the bridge's approaches.
In February 1987, the New York City Department of Transportation announced that parts of the northern upper roadway would be closed for two years as part of a $42 million project. The southern upper roadway had just been completed at a cost of $31 million. The northern roadway was closed for one year, reopening in October 1988.
Starting in 1994, two lanes were reserved during rush hours for carpool traffic. For a brief period in 1997, the traffic directions of the upper-level roadways were reversed during rush hours so that the upper level used a
left-hand traffic pattern. Manhattan-bound traffic used the southern roadway while Queens-bound traffic used the northern roadway. After residents of the Upper East Side voiced concerns about severe rush-hour congestion, this traffic pattern was discontinued, and the south-side walkway on the lower level was converted to a Queens-bound vehicular lane during the evening rush hour. The outer roadway was later opened to vehicles at all times, but after a series of fatal crashes in 2013, officials decided to close the ramp during the nighttime.
On December 8, 2010, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the bridge would be renamed in honor of former Mayor
Ed Koch from the Queensboro Bridge to the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. The announcement was made the same week the New York State Legislature voted to rename the
Brooklyn Battery Tunnel in honor of former Governor
Hugh Carey. The new name became official in March 2011. The renaming decision was unpopular among Queens residents and business leaders, and many local residents continue to refer to the bridge by its older name.New York City Council member
Peter Vallone Jr. from Queens vowed to remove Koch's name from the bridge. Vallone said, "Never in a million years would they think to rename the
Manhattan bridges, but for some reason, it was OK to slap Queens around."
In January 2021, the city decided to install a two-way
protected bike path on the northern outer roadway of the lower level, to be completed by 2022. The southern outer roadway, which at the time was used by vehicular traffic, would be used exclusively by pedestrians. However, the conversion of the southern outer roadway was subsequently delayed because of a planned renovation of the upper deck. The renovation commenced in February 2022 and was expected to last until December 2023.
The former trolley stop which served the Queensboro Bridge from 1909 to 1957
In addition to the two
elevated railway tracks, the bridge also had four
streetcar tracks. The following Queens lines operated over the bridge:
Queensboro Bridge Local, 1909–1957 (last streetcar line in the city)
F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway traverse the bridge on their way from Long Island to Manhattan. "The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge," Nick says, "is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world".
E.B. White's 1952 novel Charlotte's Web, Charlotte tells Wilbur that the bridge took eight years to build, while she could have built a web in a night.
In the climax of
Truman Capote's 2005 novel Summer Crossing, the main character commits suicide and murders three passengers by crashing her car into the Queensboro Bridge.
In the climax of
Norm Macdonald's 2016 book Based on a True Story: Not a Memoir, Adam Eget (the co-host on his video podcast Norm Macdonald Live) is found making a living underneath the Queensboro Bridge,
jerking off punks for fifteen dollars a man; the joke is also repeated on Norm Macdonald Live.
In the 1935 Movie After Office Hours Clark Gable and Constance Bennett star in "After Office Hours," a 1935 film directed by Robert Z. Leonard. Gable is Jim Branch, the go-getter editor of a newspaper, who is hot on the trial of a society love triangle.
In the 1936 screwball comedy My Man Godfrey, the bridge is seen several times as the location of the city dump where the "forgotten men" live.
The bridge is also the backdrop in the 1937 crime drama
Dead End, directed by William Wyler, starring Sylvia Sidney, Joel McCrea, Humphrey Bogart, Wendy Barrie and Claire Trevor.
In the 1948 film Sorry, Wrong Number, Leona Stevenson (
Barbara Stanwyck) is an invalid. Through her open bedroom window we see the bridge with frequent trains crossing, and on the telephone she overhears a murder plot in which the killer tells someone that he will wait till the train is crossing the bridge "in case her window is open and she should scream."
The final chase in the 1981 film Escape From New York takes place on the bridge. It is previously named by the President's kidnappers in a ransom note left in his briefcase in
Central Park as where they'll release the President if their terms are met and by
Issac Hayes's "Duke of New York" as what they'll cross the next day on their way to freedom with the kidnapped president leading them from the hood of the "duke"'s car..
The climax of the 1985 film Turk 182! takes place on and around the Queensboro Bridge.
The bridge is seen in the opening credits scene of the 1985 film Death Wish 3.
In the 1991 film New Jack City, Nino Brown and the Duh Duh Man hang a man over the side of the bridge because of a drug debt he owes. Eventually they throw him off it to his death.
In the 1992 family comedy film Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, the protagonist Kevin is seen taking a taxi over the bridge upon his entrance into New York City.
In the 1993 romantic comedy film For Love or Money, the main protagonists Doug Ireland (
Michael J. Fox) and Andy Hart (
Gabrielle Anwar) reunite on opposite sides of the Queensboro Bridge and call out to each other on what they found out about unscrupulous billionaire Christian Hanover (
In the 2003 American comedy film Elf, when Buddy is ostracized by his father, he goes to the Queensboro Bridge to brood. It is from there that he sees Santa's sleigh out of control, on its way to
The 2010 movie Salt has a scene that takes place on, and was filmed on, the Queensboro Bridge.
The Queensboro Bridge was featured in 2012 as one of the few remaining bridges in The Dark Knight Rises after Bane has taken control of the city.
In the 2013 movie Now You See Me, a car chase across the bridge leads to a crash in which the death of a character is faked.
The bridge was featured in the 2014 film A Most Violent Year, in which there is an attempted hijacking of a fuel truck on it, followed by a short shootout and foot chase that leads down one of the bridge's service staircases. The bridge is referred to as the "59th Street Bridge" in the film.
In the 2018 film Avengers: Infinity War,
Peter Parker is on a school bus driving over the Queensboro Bridge. When he sees an alien spaceship over Manhattan, he changes into Spider-Man and exits the bus, swinging towards the spaceship.
The bridge is also referred to in The Simpsons 1996 episode "
You Only Move Twice", when Hank Scorpio destroys it to show that he's not bluffing (though there is a possibility that the bridge collapsed on its own).
The bridge was destroyed in the video game Crysis 2 when a facility on Roosevelt Island exploded, causing the bridge to violently collapse.
The bridge appears in the game Driver: Parallel Lines and is able to be traveled on foot or by car. During the mission "Kidnap" the player must blow up a billboard on the Manhattan side to block traffic.