|Up: Brooklyn||[Related] «^» «T»|
Tuesday, July 4, 2000
By Paul Ford
The spot below the bridge where they shoot the models.
You can get there two ways. You can go around to the River Cafe, through the lot and the garden, and then, if the gate is open you can go right, and you'll be there. You can also come around the other side, down a street that runs only one block. Both ways put you at the base of the bridge tower, underneath the span, looking at the East river, which swells and flows quickly (it is not actually a river, but a basin of some kind.)
It's all stone. Above you is 300 feet of stone, put there by men in the mid-to-late 1800's. Of course several of them died. Some fell; some were lashed by cables; some descended into caissons to dig and the pressure of the water above them put nitrogen in their blood and bent their bodies forever. Roebling, a dour German, a great engineer, designed the entire thing, and it killed him. His son finished the work, but it killed him as well.
It was built amidst scandal and graft. Public servants were not accountable to the public. In Brooklyn society was still genteel. People built great houses. In Manhattan the roar of commerce was more pronounced. Greed rampaged.
The Woolworth Tower is the most interesting building. The boring Bell Telephone building is there, and the World Trade Towers tip the island away from you, towards New Jersey, both of them grieviously hideous gray, asphalt-colored skywards.
Those towers, though, are worth something: when you are lost, if you can find them, you can find your way home. Their gray mass is a polestar for the stranger in Queens and Brooklyn, or for when you are lost on the angled streets in Chinatown.