Do the Manhattan Bridge, Not the Other 2 [Medium]

Your friends from Kansas, your study-abroad host family and your mom will each drag you across the Brooklyn Bridge when they visit. You’ll probably do it again as a fun date when you start seeing your new girlfriend.

Everyone wants to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge because it’s what everyone else does. Kinda lazy.

The view from the bridge is nice, but the suspension wires will obstruct your photos. The swarm of visitors ticking another box on their New York To Do list prevents you from lingering, gazing and opening up to your new partner.

That pathway is one of New York City’s most crowded spots. Every foot of the mile-long chute is like when you stop at the curb at a busy intersection and wait for the ‘Walk’ symbol to pop up as cars whizz through the box while forty people huddle at your back and another twenty fan out on either side of you along the curb because that means we can all cross the street a second or two faster without having to wait for some slowpoke in front of us. But then the light turns, a few cars gets trapped in the crosswalk and we all have to parkour around the machines.

We are conditioned to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, but we don’t really want to walk on it. We just want to admire the iconic granite framed by the Lower Manhattan skyline.

From some angles, when the setting sun turns the sky pink and orange, the vibrancy appears trapped inside the triangle formed by the suspension cables. The bridge aligns with the East River horizon and the sky happens to darken just above those cables. Inside, the firmament glows.

In the background the fading sun glimmers off the westside of the glass skyscrapers and elsewhere, ceiling lights plink, crackle and buzz. It’s still only 4:30 pm; we got another three hours in the office.

That view exists for real from the Manhattan Bridge’s southern walkway (which actually faces southwest, a perfect angle for sunsets).

Still, since the walkway is fenced in by ugly chain-link and the intermittent graffiti on the gray path lacks the Williamsburg’s wit and weirdness, the Manhattan gets no love.

Brooklyn is the legend, Williamsburg is the stencil-art gallery, the quirky, pink runner’s haven and Manhattan is the utilitarian powerhouse with the striking view.


The Manhattan Bridge has a higher rating than the Williamsburg Bridge on Facebook:


Earlier this week, I read a Thrillist listicle about the best under-the-radar holiday activities to do in New York City, each entry an alternative to an overdone Christmas traditions. The list suggests visiting Staten Island’s Winter Wonderland instead of the Bryant Park Winter Village or checking out Gingerbread Lane in the Queens Hall of Science rather than maneuvering through crowds at the New York Botanical Garden’s holiday train show.

The premise is good, but the listicle is a disappointing apologist for these basic holiday traditions. Several entries equivocate right off the bat, actually telling us to visit the tried-and-true stagnant sites and the quirkier spots. Who’s got the time?

Give me something savage, Thrillist. Something like this: Stay the fuck away from the Brooklyn Bridge and instead stroll along the south side of the Manhattan Bridge from Canal to DUMBO.


A kid sat his DLSR camera in the small gap between the waist-high railing and the tall fence that curves toward the bridge to discourage climbing and jumping.

People still jump though — and not always into the water. In August, a man landed with a ‘thump’ on the DUMBO pavement. A 2007 survey estimated that ‘suicide tourists’ account for one-in-ten public suicides in New York City. They travel here to jump off landmarks.

Sometimes people survive though. In January 2009 — less than a week after Obama’s inauguration, for God’s sake, when everything seemed in front of us — a guy jumped off the Manhattan Bridge, landed in the icy water and survived. He even walked into an ambulance after getting pulled out of the water.

Seeing the camera on the ledge gave me a bit of vertigo, that fear of what could happen if I acted on my scariest fleeting thoughts. I could push the camera over and watch it plunge into the river while the kid screamed. I could scale the chain link fence and dangle over the river for an adrenaline surge. I could just jump in and see what happens.

Our thoughts are scary and become even scarier when we think we shouldn’t think them. But I bet everyone thinks about jumping when they stand on a narrow platform and look down at the water a mile below. Is that what makes people afraid of heights — freaky thoughts we can’t handle?