Ruins in the Hudson

Two of my favorite ruins in Manhattan can be found partially submerged in the Hudson River, overshadowed by the nearby West Side Highway and row of ugly, bland Trump apartment high rises.

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They’re certainly not secrets to anyone who’s ever walked through Riverside Park, but I recently scouted them as backdrops for a film, and was reminded just how great they are.

The first is the 69th Street Transfer Bridge, a decaying, rust-covered behemoth:

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It’s the sort of thing you expect to simply disappear one day, razed by the city for being unsafe, or developers for being a blight in the view of the otherwise boring Jersey coast.

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Once belonging to the West Side Line of the NY Central Railroad (part of whose network has become the insanely successful High Line Park), the bridge was built in 1911 and allowed the transfer of train cars from rail to boat, to be floated across the river to the Weehawken, NJ train yards. As slow as you might expect this process to have been, transfer bridges like this were actually faster than modern container cranes.

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Despite falling into disuse during the 1970’s, the 69th Street Transfer Bridge incredibly managed to survive on its own until 2003, when it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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It’s really amazing how much of it is still intact:

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I doubt it’ll ever be restored to level of Gantry State Park, but there’s a beauty in its decay. I’d really like to visit the control tower some day:

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The ladder up is still in place:

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The pulley system that once raised entire freight cars:

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Two more docks sit partially sunken nearby:

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It blows my mind that this was successfully landmarked. If history’s any indicator, this would’ve been long destroyed.

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Close-up:

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A third dock sits farther out:

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Any beach you ever visit along Manhattan’s coast is invariably covered in rubber tires. I have no idea why this is.

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Still supporting quite a lot of weight after all these years:

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Forgotten cabling:

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I started to walk out, then decided I didn’t want to spend the rest of my scouting day soaked and turned back:

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My second favorite ruin is just south of the Transfer Bridge: the beautiful Pier D structure.

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Built in the 1880’s, Pier D was one of many waterfront structures built to offload cargo from ships and barges into the NY Central Railroad’s 60th Street Yard.

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I wouldn’t be surprised if Pier D was part of the inspiration for Doctor Octopus’ lair in Spider-man 2:

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Much of the cargo entering the 60th Street yard was foodstuffs, including grain, milk, and vegetables, and was known as the “Lifeline of the City.” An entrance is still visible on the northern side:

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Sadly, Penn Central Railroad (NY Central’s successor) went bankrupt in 1971 and many of its properties were abandoned. Pier D caught fire later that year in June and was largely destroyed, though the steel structure has managed to stay up since.

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A portion of the pier abutting land was unfortunately removed during the development of Riverside Park, but thankfully, most was left. I love the angular labyrinth of steel girders, which reminds me of a multi-tiered spider’s web:

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A closer look:

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Very cool to know that neither structure is going anywhere until the elements finally have their way.

-SCOUT

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15 comments

  1. Oh, I LOVE these two structures! I can’t even count how many photos I’ve taken of them (I used to do morning walks in Riverside Park, and I still pass them on the Great Saunter every year).

    I heard that Trump wanted to tear down the transfer bridge when he built those hideous, boring buildings nearby, but the landmarks folks got to it first.

    Isn’t there another transfer bridge in the East River? Over in Long Island City? This place?

    http://www.wirednewyork.com/queens/queens_west/images/queens_west_gantry_plaza_citylights_23feb02.jpg

    • Yep! The park is really turning out nicely, imo. (They’re not quite done with it, but almost). Plus, it has hammocks up during the day! So you can sit in a hammock and stare at the old gantries.

  2. Gantry State Park is wonderful in its restored state, but I loved the place back when it was still derelict. Not only did you have those great hulking structures leaning precariously, but before they built City Lights Condos, there was an empty field most of the way up to Vernon Blvd. I really wanted to shoot some creepy scene there, but the opportunity never showed up.

  3. Thank you for sharing this gorgeous shots of the ruins of the bridge. Your art inspires me. I may never make it to NYC but through your work I feel like I can see its very soul. Ciao, Ardee-ann

  4. great, as always.
    maybe the tires are leftover from being on the poles. They use them at docks so the boats don’t get damaged smashing against the wood. poles may have broken off and the tires get washed on the beach.

  5. There is yet an even greater ruin to see on the Hudson. Whenever I ride Metro North or Amtrak north from the city I anticipate seeing the castle on Pollepel Island, truly remarkable.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollepel_Island

  6. Fantastic. I have always wondered about these gorgeous hulking ruins. Thank you for enlightening me.

  7. I work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and there’s what looks like another one of these Transfer Bridges on the northeast edge of the Yard (adjacent to where Division St hits Kent, in what Google maps labels “Wallabout Channel” ). Never knew what it was until now (looks like an old canal lock), thanks!

  8. Pier D used to have a twin to the south, but Trump managed to get it torn down before they could step in to save it. It was there until 1999, or 2000 I think.

    You can still see some of the foundation pilings in the background of these pictures.

  9. Speaking of the Spiderman reference…

    anyone know where the location for Osborn mansion is…?

  10. Thanks, Scout. You manage to bring back so many memories with every one of your posts, but this one is very special. In the late 70s and all through the 80s, I walked in the early morning salt air along the river, seeing these and worrying about their fate. That they are still with us, somewhere for the eye to roam and the imagination to conjure up the past of New York City, is a wonder. I refuse to acknowledge that those terrible trump towers even exist. I am so glad I knew the sky before they were built.

  11. I know this sounds weird, but I’d love to see a posting about all the beaches you’ve found along Manhattan’s coast. I believe New York had an article about them years ago, but I can’t find it.

  12. Hey Scout, just found the site and has been a great time killer at work. I live on the UWS and love these structures, but sadly I read the below article this weeek and was saddened.
    Guessing Pier D wasnt landmarked.
    http://myupperwest.com/upper-west-side/dilapidated-hudson-river-pier-removed/

  13. Cool find. There’s also two transfer bridges in Brooklyn at the end of 65th street that are still operational and a new one being built in Jersey City where the old Greenville Yard Transfer Bridges once were until hurricane Sandy destroyed them.

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