“Yikes! What a Way To Go...New York City's Travel Experience
By Miriam Medina

Part IV
New York City's Travel Experience

Researched and Compiled by Miriam Medina

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A) On August 23, 1877, the first boat of the Annex Ferry, between Jersey City and Brooklyn, made its initial trip. (9)

B) New York and Putnam Bridge: The bridge of the N.Y. & Putnam R.R., which crosses the river about a quarter of a mile above the Seventh Avenue Bridge, was built about 1877. it is provided with a steel draw 300 feet long and 28 feet above high water, with openings 128 feet wide. it carries two railroad tracks, and a foot path for free public use. This cost of this bridge was about $200,000.(20)

"ELEVATED RAILWAYS PRESENTED ONE OF THE FIRST POTENT FACTORS for the solution of the problem of adequate transportation for passengers between points in great cities. The street railway was an earlier  factor, but it met the growing inconvenience of congested streets in only a partial degree, affording but temporary relief. Two means of relieving the streets of some of the burden of passenger traffic began to be considered as long ago as 1860. Two possible solutions presented themselves, one being to carry it underground through tunnels, and the other to carry it over elevated structures. The West Side Elevated Railroad Company, as the corporation which built and operated this pioneer elevated line was named, was succeeded by the New York Elevated Railroad Company, organized 3 Jan. 1872, under a charter granted by the State legislature the year before. (32)

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A) "The Metropolitan Elevated Railways: The first of the new roads from the Battery to Central Park and beyond, was opened June 5, 1878, and on the first day 25,000 persons availed themselves of this novel means of travel. Running through some of the side streets on the west side of the city till it reached the broad Sixth avenue, thence to Central Park, five miles from the starting point, it was pushed as rapidly as it could be built to the Harlem river. Very soon afterwards, the same corporation built another road on the east side of the city, also extending from the Battery, till it reached the Bowery, and then through Third avenue to Harlem. And as soon as the immense advantage of these up-in-the-air roads was seen, still other branches shot upward, till now the main thoroughfares are fairly gridironed with these elevated iron roads.

B) The Third Avenue line was opened from South Ferry on August 26, 1878.

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The Second Avenue Line was opened in September, 1879. The Gilbert, subsequently the Metropolitan, and the original West Side and Yonkers Railway were consolidated into the Manhattan on May 20, 1879. The directors who in 1872 called the attention of the  public to their successful enterprise, would be astonished at a passenger record of 1,075,000 in a single day, or of the movement of 3,000,000 people in the three successive days when visitors crowded New York for the Columbus celebration.(34)

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A) In 1856 an improved City railroad car was introduced. "The principal advantages of this car, over the old, are: It is lighter,
will hold as many passengers, and give them more room and accommodations: takes up less room in the street, is less liable to meet with accidents, requires the attendance of but one person, and two horses can draw it, loaded with passengers, up any grade in the city." "The shape of the car is something like an omnibus__ The entrance is similar to the omnibus, much lower, however, and much more easy of access: and the door which is closed by the driver, covers the step when closed. The driver's seat is on the roof, and he also acts as money receiver, and controls the door by means of a strap in the same manner as in an omnibus. The car
comfortably seats 30 persons with abundance of room between the knees. This car was constructed by Mr. Stephenson the well known car builder in New York city, but to Mr. Queen, the entire credit belongs of its conception." The only disadvantage to this was that the drivers who sat on the roof of the vehicle were exposed to all kinds of weather conditions, suffering greatly from the extremes of heat and cold. They could not leave their seats, and were oftentimes frozen before they reached the ends of their routes. . (13)

B) In 1883, Brooklyn Bridge, at the time the world's largest suspension bridge, stretching from Brooklyn to lower Manhattan is completed.  Click here for the Brooklyn Bridge Pedestrian Walkway-Photo. c.1900

C) In 1883 a road was begun on Tenth Avenue, from One Hundred and Twenty-fifth to One Hundred and Eighty-sixth Street, to be operated by cable. It was completed in 1886. The company owning this novel property also constructed a street-car line from Park Row through Chatham Street, the Bowery, and Third Avenue to Sixty-first Street. They operated a line of omnibuses along this route.  (34)

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A) The Madison Avenue Bridge was built under the direction of the Commissioners of Public Parks, and was completed in 1884. It connects 138th Street on the east with Madison Avenue on the west, and has a total length, including the approaches, of 1163 feet. It is crossed by the cars of the Union Electric Railway Company, and the Madison Avenue horse line, and is of great importance as a connecting link with Manhattan Island. The total cost was $492,295.(20)

B) 1884: In 1884 a franchise was granted for the bridging of the East River at Blackwell's Island, but no steps toward actual construction were taken until 1898,when the Commissioner of Bridges prepared plans. These provided for a bridge having its western terminus on the block bounded by Fifty-ninth and Sixtieth streets and Avenues A and B, and its eastern terminus in Long Island City. Work was commenced in 1901, and was carried forward so slowly that in 1902 only about $42,000 had been expended. (21)

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A) In 1885, Brooklyn's first elevated railroad is completed. It runs from the Brooklyn Bridge to Broadway.

B) The Second Avenue Bridge was built in 1885 by the Suburban Rapid Transit Company as a railroad bridge. it is 28.5 feet above high water, and gives a clear opening on each side of the draw of 103.7 feet. In 1887, by arrangement with the Park Board, a foot path was opened across it for the free use of the public. It is now used by the Manhattan Railway Company, and also the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company, which has a station at 129th Street. The total cost was $203,053. (20)

C) Omnibuses were the only mode of transportation on Broadway up to the year 1885l. On June 21 of that year, after much persistent effort, the Broadway and Seventh Avenue Company started their horse cars on the main artery of the town. The proprietors of the handsome retail stores along the route were the most strenuous opposers of the scheme. (34)

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Seventh Avenue Bridge: In 1886, it was decided to build a viaduct from Washington Heights to connect with a bridge over the Harlem at 155th Street. Work was commenced on the viaduct in 1890, under the direction of the Department of Public Works, and it was opened to the public in 1893. It has a total length of 1500 feet, and crosses over the elevated railroad, with which it is connected by stairways. The roadway, 40 feet wide is paved with granite blocks laid in cement, and the sidewalks on each side, 10 feet wide, are also laid in cement. It was built at a cost of $739,000, one half the expense being borne by the property benefited, and the other by the city at large.

The bridge proper, was authorized by Chapter 207, Laws of 1890, which specifies that no surface railroad shall cross it. It was built by the Department of Public Parks, and is 731 feet long, being made up of a swing draw 400 feet long, a truss 225 feet long over the N.Y. Central & Hudson River R.R. Company's tracks, and a viaduct 106 feet long connecting the two. The draw span is 28 feet above high-water mark, and gives a clear channel of 165 feet on each side, when open. It weighs 2400 tons, and is the heaviest in the world. It is supported on a circular granite pier, built on a steel caisson, which rests on solid rock. it turns on 128 cast steel rollers arranged in two concentric rings and is opened or closed by a 75 horse-power engine in 1 1/2 minutes. The Total cost of the bridge was about $1,989,000.(20)

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In 1889 The Washington Bridge, extending from One Hundred and Eighty-first Street and Tenth Avenue on the west to Aqueduct Avenue on the east, is one of the most notable structures crossing the Harlem, both in appearance and in form of construction. The bridge was two years in building, and was opened to the public use in 1889. It cost $2,851,684. (20)

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A) In 1890 the first electric trolley begins running in Brooklyn.

B) About 1890 electric traction was perfected and trolley cars took the place of horse cars, so that the business and professional man, the mechanic, and laborer could reside in Jamaica and at small cost and in a short time reach his place of business.(14)

C) For a visual tour of Trolleys. The Shore Line Trolley Museum.  Also for a brief history of Trolleys of Washington heights and Inwood.

D) It was in 1890 that the first rapid transit commission was appointed by Mayor Hugh J. Grant; it reported in 1891 that the tunnel franchise should be sold to the highest bidder, but capitalists were afraid to back the scheme on account of its uncertainty and the vast amount of capital involved. In 1894, the legislature created the Rapid Transit Board, which, fortunately, was composed of men of unimpeachable integrity and enterprise with no interest or concern in politics, and they went at the matter in a business-like way. The contracts were let to John B. McDonald on February 21, 1900, and work was begun shortly afterwards, four and one half years being the time allowed for the completion of the work and the running of the trains. (4)

E) A CAREFUL ESTIMATE WHICH HAS BEEN MADE OF THE MOVEMENT OF PASSENGERS in and about New York during the year 1890 gives the following amazing result:

New York City (surface and elevated roads)......400,000,000
Brooklyn Bridge........................................  38,000,000
Long Island Ferries............................. ......  90,000,000
Staten Island and New Jersey ferries............... 85,000,000
                                                   Total:..............613,000,000  (36)

ALTHOUGH MANY IMMIGRANTS BEGAN TO ENTER THE UNITED STATES through Castle Garden circa the late 1850s,they continued to arrive in extraordinary numbers during the early mid'80's. It was curious to see such a heterogeneous crowd flooding our shores. According to the report of the Commissioners of Emigration for the year ending December 31, 1880, the nationalities of the 320,607 steerage passengers were as follows: Germany, 104,264; Ireland, 66,899; England, 33,768; Sweden, 35,217; Italy, 11,190; Norway, 9,997; Scotland, 9,625; Switzerland, 8,223: Russia, 7,693; Bohemia, 7,606; Hungary, 6,672; Denmark, 5,577; Austria, 4,461; France, 3,087; Wales, 3,588; Netherlands, 3,259; Belgium, 1,309; West Indies, 1,298; Spain, 931. (23)

ALSO BETWEEN 1892 AND 1924 DURING THE GREATEST IMMIGRATION TO THIS COUNTRY, ELLIS ISLAND RECEIVED  17 million people. " Almost two-thirds of the immigrants made New York City their first American destination, the rest took the train and fanned out across the country."  The lower East side stretched along the east of Chinatown, from Brooklyn Bridge to 14th street. With the Bowery, the East Side was known to be a notorious slum district. Tens of thousands of Jews and Italians and thousands of other ethnic groups, such as Poles, Greeks, Russians, Spaniards, Lithuanians, and a scattering of Turks, Persians, and Chinese lived in this area. A concentrated melting pot of the Nation's immigrants.

THE PRESENCE OF THE NEWLY ARRIVED IMMIGRANTS THAT REMAINED in New York City, added to the population growth and their ever-demanding transit needs. In order to survive, many of the immigrants who were able to, went into the pushcart business. People generally rise according to their necessities. The poorer the man was, the earlier he would get up to go to work. So at the crack of dawn, the horse wagons would find their way to the city markets, such as Fulton, Washington, Catharine, Essex, Jefferson and Tompkins, to get their merchandise of meats, fish, fruits, vegetables and groceries. Pushcart vendors, horse-wagons, all other vehicles and pedestrians would fight for footage on the crowded streets, thus intensifying the congestion and chaos of the lower east side of Manhattan . At the end of their work day they would drag home their tired bodies, and after a few winks of sleep would return once again to their consuming toil.

 Many immigrants themselves would convert their apartments into sweatshops, where they would manufacture garments, flowers and cigars, while those who were fortunate enough to find work elsewhere, unable to afford the public transportation fare from their meager earnings, would walk miles through all kinds of weather conditions to and from their places of employment. In the meantime, New York City's travel experience continued to evolve.

Photo Credit: Pushcart Vendors (24)

Sources of Information Utilized

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Next: Part V New York City's Travel Experience 1893-1907



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