The Bronx-Whitestone Bridge
, with the Manhattan skyline in the
background. Seen from SUNY Maritime
, June 10, 2015.
The Whitestone bridge (as it's called in the Bronx) was designed by the
prolific Aymar Embury II, who led Robert Moses' design team and was paid
by the federal government. It connects Ferry
Point Park in the Bronx with Francis
Lewis Park in the Whitestone section of Queens, New York City. Robert
Moses wanted to construct this bridge, as well as the Throgs Neck Bridge and
to some extent the Triborough Bridge, to provide easy access from the
mainland to Queens (which is on Long Island) for the 1939 World's Fair and
to the North Beach (now LaGuardia) Airport. The bridge was constructed in
1937-1939 and opened on the very day before the World's Fair.
The Whitestone Bridge and the Triborough Bridge were financed with complex
shuffling of RFC, PWA, and private funds and the sale of bonds, some of them
to the RFC and PWA, arrangements made by Robert Moses through his Triborough
Bridge Authority that, to this day, are almost impossible to untangle. I
don't know about you, but trying understand the description in  of this three-card monte game makes my head spin.
But let's see what Moses himself has to say about it [2, pp.191-192]:
The Bronx-Whitestone Bridge opened on April 29, 1939. From its inception to
its opening before schedule, it was a straight financing and construction
job, relatively free from government red tape and obstructions.
In 1937, when the Triborough Act was amended
to provide refinancing and construction of the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge,
Triborough 4 percent revenue bonds were offered to the general public
through underwriters and promptly sold. The entire previous issue of $35
million of Tribourough bonds in the hands of the Reconstruction Finance
Corporation was refunded, and a new total of $53 million was issued. The
RFC received $28,536,000 in new bonds and a cash payment of 7 million. In
the transaction the Federal government obtained a profit of $1,365,000.
To me, this says that he owed the government $35 million that he borrowed to
build the Triborough Bridge, then he borrowed $53 million from investors and
then paid $7 million of it to the government against his debt, and then
another $28 million from the RFC by "repaying" them with
more bonds, which left him with $74 million to pay for a bridge that would,
in the end, cost under $20 million[3
] to build.
And left the government holding IOUs for $56 million! In any case,
the official Bronx Historian, Lloyd
notes that, “A new public authority
headed by Robert Moses secured Works Progress Administration funding for
building the Triborough Bridge
and the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge”[7
As for labor, it is often said (e.g. in ) that
only "contract labor" was used by Moses for building bridges, but the
contractors themselves used relief labor, as Moses himself notes in [2, p.695].
Schoolman, Morton, and Alvin Magid (editors),
Reindustrializing New York State: Strategies, Implications,
of New York Press (1986)
Moses, Robert, Public Works, McGraw Hill (1970)
Bridge: Celebrating 75 Years, NY Metropolitan Transit Authority
Press Release, April 8, 2014.
Robert Moses, An Atlantic portrait,
The Atlantic Magazine, February 1939
Span Opened by Mayor; New Bronx-Long Island Link Hailed as Symbol of City's
Never-Ending Progress, NY Times, April 30, 1939.
Moses and the Modern Park System (1929-1965), New York City Parks
Department website, 28 July 2015: ”At the Parks Department
headquarters in the Arsenal, an enormous park design and construction team
assembled. Architect Aymar Embury II and landscape architect Gilmore
D. Clarke were among the 1,800 designers and engineers drawing up plans for
the expansion, rehabilitation and modernization of New York's parks. An
additional 3,900 construction supervisors oversaw the work of an army of
Parks Department relief workers — 70,000 strong in 1934 — all
paid by the federal government.”
- Ultan, Lloyd, The Northern
Borough, A History of the Bronx, Bronx County Historical Society