I do most of my hiking in the woods, but a trek from Queens to Brooklyn last week was a great reminder of the joys of urban walking. We crossed old industrial zones, saw one of four retractile bridges in the USA, and visited the cemetery plot holding the political dynasty that was the Wagner family. And that was before the trip was even half over.
Our hike leader was Craig Nunn, a retired chemist who leads trips for the Oudoors Club. Craig is a skillful and experienced guide. His enthusiasm for old industrial neighborhoods, his careful navigation with a GPS system, and his well-researched knowledge of the sites we passed made for a great outing.
I was with the group from Long Island City, Queens to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. If the Wagner grave in Calvary Cemetery satisfied my interest in political history, the retractile bridge was an introduction to a rarity in industrial architecture: Craig explained that there are only four retractile bridges in the USA. Two of them are in New York.
The retractile bridge that we saw, formally called the Borden Avenue Bridge, spans a tributary of the Newtown Creek that runs between Queens and Brooklyn. The bridge takes the form of a trapezoidal roadway resting on railroad wheels that in turn rest on railroad tracks. When a vessel needs to pass through, the roadway slides out of the way on the tracks. That happens rarely nowadays, but the bridge recalls the combination of industry and maritime trade that once supported New York's economy.
It being a Sunday, I had to leave the hike in Greenpoint to prepare my Monday morning classes. The twenty-some walkers who continued on anticipated seeing another retractile bridge and architectural gems of Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Craig also leads rural hikes and a hike that includes a visit to the old industrial section of Paterson, NJ. Watch for his trips on the Outdoors Club site.