Bridge out! Historic Carroll Street span to close for two weeks

Bridge out! Historic Carroll Street span to close for two weeks
Photo by Tom Callan

The city will shutter the country’s oldest retractable bridge for repairs, temporarily inconveniencing residents and businesses in Park Slope and Carroll Gardens.

On Tuesday, Aug. 9, workers will begin a two-week repair on the 121-year old Carroll Street Bridge — which links the neighborhoods via the Gowanus Canal — adding new concrete and a fresh coat of paint.

Most important, the bridge’s trademark “spool mechanism” — a big yellow gear that slides the bridge away from the canal so boats can pass — will be replaced.

In the meantime, the city suggests that drivers and pedestrians instead use the Union and Third street bridges, which sandwich the soon-to-be-shuttered span.

The Carroll Street Bridge — one of two retractable bridges left in the entire country — is a wood-planked throwback to the area’s industrial past and a colorful neighborhood talk piece: It appeared in the 1980s flick, “Heaven Help Us,” was once a meeting point for lawless fishermen and has changed colors — from red to white to green — more than some women switch nail polish.

The project comes during the city’s unspoken summer bridge repair season, when many public works projects are launched in an effort to be less of a nuisance.

Neighbors are mildly miffed.

“It makes things harder for our delivery guys,” said Joe Salimeni, who runs Pizza Cotta-Bene, two blocks from the bridge on Third Avenue. “For them, it adds up.”

Most, however, we able to put the repair job in some perspective.

“If it’s just two weeks, it’s nothing tragic,” said driver Joe Totillo, who lives a few blocks away on Nevins Street.

The bridge was last shuttered in summer 2003 in order to replace Belgian block pavement and timber planks, a project that did not cause much controversy at the time. But a longer renovation that began in 1989 irritated neighbors because it lasted four years.

Repairs this time are expected to be much shorter, with the bridge reopening on Aug. 21. City officials would not say how much the work will cost.

Workers have circled areas on the wood-plank bridge that have decayed.
Photo by Tom Callan