Portion of Columbia Heights named for Emily Roebling

Portion of Columbia Heights named for Emily Roebling
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

This street’s got a lot of her-story.

A stretch of a Brooklyn Heights road now bears the name of one of its most prominent former residents — Emily Warren Roebling — who famously finished building the iconic Brooklyn Bridge in the late 1800s after her husband fell ill.

And the newly unveiled street sign, making Columbia Heights between Pineapple and Orange streets “Emily Warren Roebling Way,” is a fitting honor to remember such a trailblazing woman who started smashing the patriarchy before women were allowed to vote, said one of her relatives during the co-naming ceremony on Tuesday.

Almost there: Kriss Roebling’s two sons, Chase and August, help unveil the new street sign.
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

“I believe she’s left an indelible footprint in those years — both as an engineer in her own right, and as a contributor to Brooklyn culture, to American culture, and world culture, and as a considerable breaker of the glass ceiling, which is still in the process of crumbling,” said her great, great, great grandson, Kriss Roebling, who was joined by locals, historians, and pols at the Heights corner. “I know that Emily would just be thrilled.”

Roebling and her husband, Washington — who led the construction of the world’s first steel-cable suspension span as its chief engineer — lived on the block, close enough to the bridge so they could peak out their window down onto the construction site of what would ultimately become one of the most photographed overpasses in the world.

But when Washington got sick with the bends (then known as caissons disease) while overseeing the work, Emily ensured Brooklyn’s namesake bridge was finished — all the while keeping her ailing husband up to date about the massive project, and chatting with journalists, politicians, and engineers.

That way!: The city co-named Columbia Heights between Pineapple and Orange streets “Emily Warren Roebling Way.”
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

When the bridge was finally done in 1883, Emily was the first to cross it — with a rooster in her lap as a sign of victory.

But Emily’s contributions didn’t just stop with the bridge — she graduated with a law degree from New York University and continued to fight for women throughout her career, making her persistence a story worth telling, according to the local pol.

“Emily was a leader ahead of her time,” said Brooklyn Heights Councilman Stephen Levin, who was joined by other pols and historians, including Brooklyn Heights Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon. “She broke barrier after barrier and we are honored to be able to celebrate her legacy.”

All in the family: Local pols and leaders joined the Roebling family for the co-naming ceremony.
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

In March, the New York Times published an obituary for Emily, recognizing her achievements more than 100 years after her death, and after Brooklyn’s one-time paper of record beat it to the news. And the ceremony came just one year after Community Board 2 voted to support the honor.

And just a neighborhood away, a Downtown street will soon be named after a similarly pioneering woman — African-American journalist Ida B. Wells, who used her stories to fight racism and champion civil rights.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
A lesson in history: Youngsters came out to support Emily Warren Roebling.
Photo by Caleb Caldwell