Aymar Embury II Gallery of NYC New Deal Projects - Photo #9 - Bridges, highways, and tunnels

Photo: The Wave, Rockaway's Newspaper, 24 October 2017.
The Marine Parkway Bridge (now called the Gil Hodges Bridge). Built in 1936-37; architect: Aymar Embury II[1,2]. It is a vertical lift bridge that crosses the Rockaway Inlet of Jamaica Bay, connecting the Rockaway Peninsula (and Jacob Riis Park) in Queens with Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. It cost about $6,000,000 1937 dollars to build[13]. Once built, the bridge's vertical lift span was the longest in the world for vehicular traffic[3]. To my knowledge, it has never before been listed as a New Deal project; nevertheless it is one because:
  • PWA loans and grants provided some or all of the up-front financing for the project[17].
  • Some or all of the $6M in Marine Parkway Authority bridge bonds that were issued might have been used to pay PWA loans[8,11].
  • The US Department of War required that the original plan be modified to include a lift bridge in case tall warships had to pass under the bridge[4]. Although I can't prove it, this mandate must have been accompanied by funding.
  • Moses himself seems to confirm that relief (most likely WPA) labor was used to build the bridge[9]. In any case the WPA was already on site, hard at work at each end of the Bridge: in Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn[6] and in Jacob Riis Park in Rockaway, Queens[7] — both Moses projects.
  • Aymar Embury II, its architect, was paid by federal New Deal agencies[10].
  1. Marine Parkway Bridge Celebrates its 70th Birthday, New York Times, 3 July 2007: "The Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge celebrated its 70th birthday today. The bridge connects the Rockaway Peninsula (and Jacob Riis Park) in Queens with Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. The bridge was designed by Aymar Embury II, who was also the architect of the Triborough and Bronx-Whitestone Bridges."
  2. Marine Parkway Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, nycbridges.blogspot.com.
  3. Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge Vertical Lift Span Active Year Round, Metropolitan Transit Authority press release, 7 August 2008.
  4. Approve Building Rockaway Bridge, New York Times, 19 December 1935, p.9: "...was approved today by the War Department ... the original clearances were insufficient ... The plans were revised to provide a bridge with a vertical lift span affording a clear opening of 500 feet wide and 150 feet high at mean high water ... The clearances provided are considered ample by the War Department for present and reasonable prospective navigation on the waterway." Adding the world's longest lift bridge span can't have been cheap; all the more reason for there to be considerable federal funding.
  5. Contextual Study of New York State's Pre-1961 Bridges, NYS Department of Transportation, November 1999:, p.64: "Between August 1935 and June 1937, the Works Progress Administration expended $7.3 million on behalf of the Department of Plants and Structures, which was responsible for new bridge construction." The Marine Parkway Bridge was built during this period.
  6. Cultural Landscape Report for Floyd Bennett Field, National Park Service, 2009, pp.68-69: "The WPA work included two new runways, installation of navigational aids, expansion of hangars and maintenance buildings, and improvement of the airport entrance landscape with lawn and paintings. [...Plus] drains within the airfield, sewer lines, water mains, underground fuel tanks, and electrical cables."
  7. Jacob Riis Park Historic District, National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, 17 June 1981: "the historical significance of the [Jacob Riis Park] District derives from the implementation and construction of the park during the 1930's. Labor costs were funded through the Works Progress Administration. WPA projects in New York, including the nation's largest project, LaGuardia Airport, provided temporary relief for the city's unemployed."
  8. Caro, Robert A., The Power Broker - Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, Vintage Books (1974), p.360: "He [Moses] had a plan to finance construction of 'Marine Parkway Bridge' to the Rockaway: the plan was to create another authority to accept the necessary $10,000,000 federal contribution"; p.616: "It was not until the New Deal, when Depression-strapped municipalities, unable to finance major public works themselves, suddenly realized that RFC and PWA grants were available for self-liquidating projects, that urban authorities began to be esablished in any number. In 1933 and 1934, when Moses was playing the crucial role in setting up the Triborough, Bethpage, Jones Beach, Henry Hudson, Marine Parkway and Hayden Planetarium authorities ... there were only a few handfuls of other authorities in the entire country."
  9. Statement by Robert Moses at Dinner of Chanber of Commerce of the Rockaways, 29 June 1938: "We are financing a large part of the cost [of the Marine Parkway and Bridge] by combining the very successful Henry Hudson Bridge, the Marine Parkway Bridge and the Cross Bay Bridge into one Authority financed largely by a ten cent toll for pleasure vehicles. The city is paying for part of the land, but none of the construction."
  10. New Deal Assistance in NYC Parks Department Projects, 1934-43.
  11. Marine Parkway Proposed in Bill, New York Times, 6 February 1934: "The proposed [Marine Parkway] authority would obtain $7,5000,000 through the sale of its bonds to the Federal Government and would receive $2,500,000 as a subsidy as a public works project."
  12. Governor Signs Bill for Marine Parkway, New York Times, i April 1934: "The bill to create the Marine Parkway Authority to construct a $10,000,000 parkway linking Marine Park and Jacob Riis Park has been signed by Governor Lehman ... It is believed Federal funds will be advanced, as the project is classified as self-liquidating."
  13. Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, Wikipedia, accessed 30 November 2019: "The Marine Parkway Bridge was to be constructed using Public Works Administration funds ... In order to fund the bridge's construction the Marine Parkway Authority authorized the issuance of $6 million worth of bonds that would mature in 25 years."
  14. Marine Parkway Bridge Opening Set for Next Year, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 15 June 1936, M1 p.5. Indicates that the highly specialized labor would be done by the American Bridge Company (superstructure) and the Frederick Snare Corporation (substructure). But this does not mean that "relief" laborers (WPA in this case) did not work on the bridge[15].
  15. Moses, Robert, Public Works, McGraw Hill (1970), p.695: "The contractor furnishes the overhead, he furnishes the experience, he furnishes the equipment, he furnishes a certain amount of supervision, and he has to take all the labor from relief." This explains Moses' remark, "The city is paying for part of the land, but none of the construction"[9].
  16. Jane Kamensky, Carol Sheriff, David W. Blight, Howard Chudacoff, Fredrik Logevall, A People and a Nation: A History of the United States, Cengage Learning (2018), p.641: "The Public Works Administration (PWA) created by Title II of the National Industrial Recovery Act, used public funds to create jobs for men in the construction industry and building trades. In 1933 Congress appropriated $3.3 billion — or 165 percent of federal revues for that year — to New Deal public works programs that would strengthen the nation's infrastructure. PWA workers built the Triborough Bridge in New York City " (etc) The PWA did not have workers but it funded projects that paid workers, so to whatever extent PWA funded the Marine Parkway Bridge, it was paying for the labor to build it.
  17. Harold Wolkind, Fluctuations in Capital Outlays of Municipalities, U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Series No.10, US Government Printing Office, Washington DC (1941), p.53: "As part of [New York City's] recent program, and with the aid of grants and loans from the PWA, several new bridges have been completed — the Triborough Bridge ..., the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, ..., The Henry Hudson Parkway, ... and the Marine Parkway Bridge."
  18. NYC Parks Department press relesase, 24 June 1936. Does not mention Embury or any New Deal connection.