Booked for the Bridge
Pauta para el puente

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Booked for the Bridge

Story and photos by Mónica Barnkow

Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora (left) with members of the design team.

Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora (left) with members of the design team.

Fatimatou D. could barely stay still.

The Metropolitan Lighthouse Charter School second grader beamed as she spoke.

“I am excited,” said Fatimatou. “We will get to play, ride our bikes, and our scooters.”

She and her fellow classmates were one quivering mass of anticipation as they described what activities they’d likely pursue the moment they could make their way across the High Bridge’s pedestrian walkway.

This past Mon., Jun. 1st, the countdown to the bridge’s official re-opening began at a lively event and book reading held at the school.

Over sixty children from three local schools, together with parents, teachers, elected officials, and community leaders, gathered for a reading of the picture book The Lowdown on the High Bridge conducted by its author, artist and Emmy Award-winning actress Sonia Manzano.

Manzano is known to many as “Maria” from Sesame Street.

Manzano is known to many as “Maria” from Sesame Street.

“I’m Maria of Sesame Street,” she said with a smile as she settled in to read. “I look different in reality than on television.”

The Bronx native is an established writer whose works include No Dogs Allowed and The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano.

Her latest book is a collaborative effort between Manzano and the Bronx Children’s Museum and was conceived as a gift to the borough’s children in honor of the story of the 167-year-old historic bridge.

The Lowdown on the High Bridge, illustrated by Noelle S. Gibbons, will be given during the month of June to over 3,000 students attending eight Highbridge schools in which museum staff has spent the past two years sharing lessons on art, local history and the Harlem River.

The book features figures such as author Edgar Allen Poe walking on the Bridge from Manhattan to the Bronx.

The museum’s Executive Director Carla Precht said it was important that local children were reconnected to the history of their own neighborhood.

“For generations, children living in the Highbridge area of the Bronx were unaware of the importance of this historic bridge,” said Precht. “This book illuminates its magnificent past and beauty.”

Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. quizzed the children.

Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. quizzed the children.

Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. playfully seized on the opportunity to test the children with a quick quiz. He was pleased to find that his audience, composed largely of first and second graders, aced the test.

He celebrated their achievement – and said the knowledge gained would come in handy.

“The reopening will enable the children to enjoy a brighter future where they are able to reclaim, and identify, with the past glory of the High Bridge,” he said.

Completed in 1884, the High Bridge is the oldest standing bridge in New York City. It served as the first aqueduct to bring fresh drinking water to the city and later as a tourist pedestrian destination walkway.

But as bridge became obsolete over the years, the High Bridge became a symbol of blight.

In 2012, a $62 million renovation of the bridge and adjacent areas began.

It is slated to re-open later this month on Wed., Jun. 10th, and will serve mainly as a connecting pathway for cyclists and pedestrians between the Bronx and Manhattan.

Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora was also on hand with members of the design team.

The museum has been working with local schoolchildren for the past two years.

The museum has been working with local schoolchildren for the past two years.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, whose district spans both Northern Manhattan and the Bronx, said that the bridge’s reopening would bring the communities closer together.

“Children from the Bronx and Manhattan will walk on the pathway and feel pride in their history as they enjoy the easy access to both boroughs,” she observed.

Moreover,

For Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, the bridge would now serve as a new open space upon which to play, bike run and walk – and would serve to increase access to more recreational and athletic opportunities in and near Highbridge Park in Manhattan.

There, they would find hiking and walking paths, baseball and basketball fields, and yes, the Highbridge swimming pool.

“It is so important today to stay active and healthy,” he urged.

Fatimatou and her friends were ready.

Pauta para el puente

Historia y fotos por Mónica Barnkow

The museum has been working with local schoolchildren for the past two years.

The museum has been working with local schoolchildren for the past two years.

Fatimatou D. apenas podía quedarse quieta.

La estudiante de segundo grado de la escuela charter Metropolitan Lighthouse sonreía mientras hablaba.

“Estoy muy emocionada”, dijo Fatimatou. “Vamos a poder jugar, andar en bici y en nuestras motos”.

Ella y sus compañeros de clase tenían una sola masa temblorosa de anticipación mientras describían qué actividades es probable que realicen al momento en que vayan al paseo peatonal de High Bridge.

El pasado lunes 1 de junio, la cuenta regresiva para la reapertura oficial del puente comenzó con un evento animado y una lectura que tuvo lugar en la escuela.

Más de sesenta niños de tres escuelas locales, junto con padres, maestros, funcionarios electos y líderes comunitarios, se reunieron para una lectura del libro ilustrado The Lowdown on the High Bridge conducida por la autora, artista y ganadora del Premio Emmy, la actriz Sonia Manzano.

“Soy María de Plaza Sésamo,” dijo con una sonrisa mientras se acomodaba para leer. “Me veo diferente en la realidad que en la televisión.”

Manzano is known to many as “Maria” from Sesame Street.

Manzano is known to many as “Maria” from Sesame Street.

La nativa del Bronx es una escritora establecida cuyas obras incluyen No Dogs Allowed y The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano.

Su último libro es un esfuerzo colaborativo entre Manzano y el Museo Infantil del Bronx, y fue concebido como un regalo para los niños del condado en honor a la historia de 167 años del histórico puente.

The Lowdown on the High Bridge, ilustrado por Noelle S. Gibbons, se entregará durante el mes de junio a más de 3,000 estudiantes que asisten a ocho escuelas Highbridge en las que el personal del museo ha pasado los últimos dos años compartiendo lecciones sobre arte, historia local y el río Harlem.

El libro presenta características como el autor Edgar Allen Poe caminando sobre el puente de Manhattan al Bronx.

Carla Precht, directora ejecutiva del museo, dijo que es importante que los niños locales se reconecten con la historia de su propio vecindario.

“Durante generaciones, los niños que viven en la zona de Highbridge del Bronx no han sido conscientes de la importancia de este puente histórico”, dijo Precht. “Este libro ilumina su esplendoroso pasado y belleza”.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

La presidenta del Concejo Melissa Mark-Viverito.

El presidente del condado del Bronx, Rubén Díaz Jr., juguetonamente aprovechó la oportunidad para poner a prueba a los niños con un rápido cuestionario. Se alegró de que su público, compuesto en gran parte por estudiantes de primero y segundo grado, tuviera éxito en la prueba.

Celebró su logro y dijo que el conocimiento obtenido será muy útil.

“La reapertura permitirá a los niños disfrutar de un futuro mejor en el que sean capaces de recuperar e identificar la gloria pasada de High Bridge”, dijo.

Terminado en 1884, el puente High Bridge es el más antiguo de la ciudad de Nueva York. Sirvió como el primer acueducto para llevar agua potable a la ciudad y más tarde como un paseo peatonal turístico.

Pero a medida que el puente se volvió obsoleto, High Bridge se convirtió en un símbolo de deterioro urbano.

En 2012 comenzó una renovación de $62 millones de dólares del puente y las zonas adyacentes.

Está previsto que vuelva a abrir a finales de este mes el miércoles 10 de junio, y servirá principalmente como una vía de conexión para ciclistas y peatones entre el Bronx y Manhattan.

“I am excited,” said Fatimatou.

“Estoy muy emocionada”, dijo Fatimatou.

El comisionado Feniosky Peña-Mora (izq.) del Departamento de Diseño y Construcción explico varios detalles de la renovación junto a miembros del equipo de diseño.

La presidenta del Concejo, Melissa Mark-Viverito, cuyo distrito abarca tanto el norte de Manhattan como el Bronx, dijo que la reapertura del puente acercará a las comunidades más cerca.

“Los niños del Bronx y Manhattan caminarán sobre la vía y se sentirán orgullosos de su historia, ya que disfrutarán de un fácil acceso a los dos condados”, observó.

Además, para el comisionado de Parques, Mitchell Silver, el puente también servirá como un nuevo espacio abierto en el cual se podrá jugar, andar en bici, correr y caminar, y serviría para aumentar el acceso a más oportunidades recreativas y deportivas en, y cerca de, Highbridge Park en Manhattan.

Habrá senderismo, béisbol y canchas de baloncesto, y sí, la piscina Highbridge.

“Es tan importante hoy en día mantenerse activo y saludable”, instó.

Fatimatou y sus amigos estaban listos.