The Brooklyn Bridge has officially reopened after three months of construction.
No, not that one. The “original” Brooklyn Bridge.
We’re talking the Vechtbrug, an approximately 60-foot long drawbridge spanning the Vecht, a tributary of the Rhine River, in Breukelen, the Dutch town of about 10,000 residents from which our borough’s name derived. The bridge has been closed to traffic for the past three months to undergo a complete rebuild, and is set to reopen on Saturday, April 2 at 11 am Dutch time.
The new bridge will be opened Saturday with speeches from Breukelen Alderman Arjan Wisseborn, Bertien Quarles van Ufford (the Lady of adjacent Gunterstein Estate, a castle with a real-life moat), and former bridge operator Henk Britink. The new drawbridge takes advantage of new remote-control technology, though it can still be operated with a crank if in a crunch.
In what would be an unprecedented development in Brooklyn, the town of Breukelen demolished the old, wooden bridge — which had stood since the 1950s — in January and quickly rebuilt a new, steel bridge in just three months. The bridge was modeled after a previous bridge that stood on the site in the first half of the 20th century, according to Bram Donkers, a Utrecht resident who for the past decade has fostered sister city relations between Brooklyn and Breukelen.
“In the warm Trans-Atlantic relationship between Breukelen and Brooklyn, the bridge is a very useful symbol for bringing both sides together,” Donkers said in a message to Brooklyn Paper.
A bridge has crossed the Vecht for hundreds of years; Donkers estimates about 700 years though notes that historians are divided on the subject. It unquestionably pre-dates the Brooklyn Bridge, though, leading some residents of Breukelen to cheekily refer to their crossing as the “original Brooklyn Bridge.”
Brooklyn and Breukelen — which is now part of a larger municipality called Stichtse Vecht — have forged closer ties in recent years. Former Borough President Marty Markowitz visited the town in 2009, Donkers said. Last year, as part of the 375th anniversary of Brooklyn adopting its name (after Dutch colonists established a settlement on Long Island called Breuckelen in 1646), former Beep and current Mayor Eric Adams signed a “Protocol of Partnership, Historical Connection, and Future Ties” with Stichtse Vecht Mayor Ap Reinders.
“As we sign our official friendship agreement today, let us continue to work together to strengthen the connection between our cities, and to bring cultural exchanges to our respective communities,” Adams said in a video message to Breukelen last year. “Because as Brooklyn’s seal says, ‘unity makes strength.'”