My assignment that day was to photograph the Verranzano-Narrows Bridge, that is!.
I was a photographer for the reincarnated "Brooklyn Daily Eagle", a newspaper from an earlier time dating back to 1841. It was a newspaper of style and prestige that was expressed in the faces of the people, I announced myself to, I'm from the Eagle". It was a newspaper beloved by all who read it.
More often than not, my appearance would draw a raised eye brow. Fact was, I looked a little young to be working for a daily newspaper with the reputation of the Eagle to live up to. Well, they had every right to wonder, yet no one ever ventured forward to ask either! After All my byline (Eagle photo by Horeis) accompanied my photographs, so why ask?
When I received my first bridge assignment, I was a seventeen year old student in attendance at New Utrecht High School, in Brooklyn, N. Y. This would in later years become the background setting for the T V show, "Welcome back Kotter". It was a day off from the rotation of changing class rooms and dancing in the halls (yeah right, only on T V you say!). Still it was an opportunity. As usual, my mode of transportation from Bay Ridge was the Forth Avenge local subway to downtown and a short walk to the Eagle office on Montague Street.
The city editor's first name was Van. When I arrived at his desk, in a corner of a large open office floor plan. He and a reporter, Rachel Zuckerman had just completed their discussion of the bridge assignment. You've heard the expression, "timing is everything". Well it's like Ivory Snow, i.e., at least 99 & 44/100's percent of the time. Your just what we've been waiting for, a photographer (hey made my day). With a grin on his face.Van announced I was to travel with the reporter to the construction site to photograph the bridge's progress. Van knew I lived at 86th street & Fort Hamilton Pkwy. The bridge site was in the low 90's Management staff greeted us on our arrival. We proceeded with the ritualistic signing of documents that stated. For all intensive purposed should anything happen to us while on site property, "the birds would have us".
For all the excitement the bridge presented, I would say, for some memories of this huge project would be less then favorable. Had my own address been one block further in the wrong direction. I might have been of the same mind. Where houses with back yards of flower beds and tomato plants grew. Homes and families gave way to the process of expropriation for the construction of the bridge project. In the form of major road construction was required.
From where I was standing up to my ankles in mud, strange forms had already begun to emerge in the surrounding area, Taking on a some what extended circular pattern. They were all part of a support system that would inter weave and connect the ramps and approaches for passage across the Narrows. Stonehenge had nothing to worry about.
In the opposite direction two towers had taken form standing their ground at the waters edge.The Brooklyn tower and across the Narrows the Staten Island tower stood proud on the skyline. Various phases of the anchorage were under way. Securing the strand shoes being one of the first steps for the weaving of the cables.
My next assignment to photograph the bridge, would be for the Brooklyn Times. A city wide newspapers strike had shut all of the New York City newspapers down except for the independent Eagle. After the other dailies returned to the news stand. The Eagle would now suffer it's own extended labor dispute permanently closing it's doors in the process.
Time came to pass, when I received a phone call from Joe. Former sports editor at the Eagle. I'm starting up another newspaper, "The Brooklyn Times". I'd like some shots of the bridge. How soon can you get them"? I'm on my way, ok I'll phone the site office to expect you. Thanks, I'll see ya later.
It was a bright day on more then one front. The weather was great and I had an assignment! My arrival at the site office was greeted with, "too bad what happened to the Eagle". Your publisher call from the Times, good luck. I proceeded out the back door.
A great deal had taken place since my last visit. Nothing I didn't already know. There were more ways to get around....
assorted scaffolding, walkways, ladders, and the bridge components themseles. It was like walking on the biggest
"Erector Set" imaginable.
At the back side of the anchorage along the base, massive rolls of wire lay cradled in a rack, each one awaiting it's turn at the weaver's hand. From here, I made my way up a wooden staircase to the top of the ancharage. The mounted saddles brought together the individual wires from the strand shoes forming each massive cable. A good vantage point to start from.
From here it was up and onward to the top of the tower. The only real piece of safety equipment I wore was a hard hat, you know how those dive bombing seagulls can be! From atop the anchorage here was a fifteen step wooden ladder leading to the base of the cable saddle. Here began the catwalk made of school yard style chain link fence to the top. Wood strips wired to the fence material provided steps; is was truly an open air concept.
Don't recall how long it took to reach the top. But every stop of the way was an eye opening experience. Once at the top I made my way off the cat walk onto the tower it self. Work was in progress as a strand wheel carrying a wire made a whipping noise passing overhead from where I stood. The wire was depositd into the saddle and then headed toward the Staten Island side.
Active work was in progress, I had to remain neutral not to cause a distraction up here at a 685 foot elevation. After a period of acclimation. I made my way to the middle of the tower. By this time of day, cloud cover had edged it's way into the skyline increasing it's density. The sun had already started it's descent. Now it became a question of how long it would take to retace my steps and reach bottom before the sun did? I took several pictures as I began the return journey, The last of which is one of my self on the tower platform to the left side of a cable saddle. I paused for a moment looking back at the wonder of it all. And the memories of where I had just been. When I arrived back at the site office. I answered the question of where had I been for so long. You could have choked a horse with their facial expressions when I replied.
Top of the Tower!