Brooklyn Bridge Vs Manhattan Bridge Vs Williamsburg Bridge

The Basics: History, Construction, and Size

The Brooklyn Bridge

When the Brooklyn Bridge was built, it was the longest suspension bridge at the time. The main span is almost 1600 feet long and its surface hovers approximately 130 feet above water.

To the tip of its towers, the Brooklyn Bridge is 272 feet tall. This bridge was originally called the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, but the name was shortened to what it is today in 1915.

This magnificent structure was designed by John A. Roebling and built by the Tammany Hall New York Bridge Company in the late 1880s.

Since then, it has been renovated on several occasions in the 1950s, 80s, and 2010s. Today, it is a National Historic Landmark, as well as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

As one of the must-see attractions in NYC, things to do near the Brooklyn Bridge are endless.

The Manhattan Bridge

Compared to the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge is longer and taller. It has a total length of approximately 6900 feet and a height of 336 feet.

Structurally, it is also a suspension bridge. The Manhattan Bridge opened to the public in 1909, with its earliest blueprints created by R.S. Buck.

The bridge’s final plan was created by Leon Solomon Moisseiff, a leading engineer of his time who has been awarded The Franklin Institute’s Lous E. Levy Medal.

Down Under the Manhattan Bridge

In 1986, the bridge was closed temporarily so that upper-level damage could be repaired. Since its construction, the Manhattan Bridge has been repaired many times as additional repairs were needed in 1987, 1988, and 1991.

Furthermore, almost 20 years later, in 2010, an $834 million project was planned to replace cables. The bridge is presently maintained by the New York City Department of Transportation.

The Williamsburg Bridge

With a total length of 7308 feet, the Williamsburg Bridge is the longest of the three suspension bridges. It opened in 1903 and was the longest suspension bridge in the world for almost two decades afterward.

Leffert L. Buck was the chief engineer. He collaborated with Henry Hornbostel and Holton D. Robinson to take on this massive project.

The Williamsburg Bridge

Unfortunately, as the bridge was built, there were several fatalities. One worker fell in 1900 and another drowned in 1902. There was also a fire in 1902 that almost resulted in the destruction of a few major cables.

It might be surprising to know that, despite being the longest bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge was built in half the amount of time it took to build the Brooklyn Bridge.

This impressive feat was likely due to improved construction technology as well as enhanced materials and availability.

Which of NYC’s boroughs do they connect?

All three bridges span the East River to connect Manhattan and Brooklyn, two of the boroughs in NYC, but they connect different areas.

True to its name, the Brooklyn Bridge links central Manhattan and Brooklyn. On the Manhattan side, there is an entrance for pedestrians located directly across from City Hall Park.

Simultaneously, the Manhattan Bridge connects lower Manhattan with Downtown Brooklyn. It runs almost parallel to the Brooklyn Bridge. The entryways from Manhattan and Brooklyn can be found on Canal Street and Flatbush Avenue respectively.

Lastly, the Williamsburg Bridge connects the lower east side of Manhattan and Brooklyn, near Interstate 278. The Williamsburg Bridge Plaza is located at the base of the bridge on the Williamsburg side (Brooklyn).

Is there a fee to cross them?

All three bridges are toll-free, meaning there is no fee to cross them. If you are experiencing any issues with crossing the bridge, such as lighting issues, potholes, road conditions, or damaged signs, you can make a report using the Toll-Free Bridge Complaint Form found on the Official Website of the City of New York.

Williamsburg bridge 1

What and who is allowed to cross?

The Brooklyn Bridge

Historically, horse-drawn carriages used to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. With a width of eight feet initially, the bridge’s lanes were narrower than those of today’s standard car lanes. There were two lanes in each direction of traffic.

Now, both vehicles and pedestrians are allowed to cross. On the Brooklyn side, vehicles can enter from multiple streets, including Tillary-Adams Street, Sands-Pearl Street, and Exit 28B.

On the other hand, vehicles can access the bridge on the Manhattan side from FDR Drive, Park Row, and Chambers-Centre Street.

Due to the structure of the bridge, certain vehicles, such as buses and commercial trucks cannot cross the Brooklyn Bridge. Theoretically, heavier personal vehicles such as pickups and SUVs should also be prohibited from crossing; however, this is not frequently enforced.

Recently, the Brooklyn Bridge opened for bicycles to cross. New bike lanes were open to the public in 2021, separate to the pedestrian walkway. They are separated from traffic by concrete barriers and measure 8 feet wide.

Pedestrians and riders crossing Brooklyn Bridge

The Manhattan Bridge

The Manhattan Bridge has two decks for vehicles; the top lane has four lanes, and the bottom has three. These lanes are quite adaptable and can transform to accommodate changes in traffic.

The Manhattan Bridge

The bridge also carries the subway and has a path for pedestrians as well as a bike lane. There are copper coverings that shelter the pedestrian and bike paths. Along the bridge, there are also spaces where pedestrians can rest and take a breather.

The Williamsburg Bridge

Like the Manhattan Bridge, the Williamsburg bridge carries vehicles, subway lines, bicycles, and pedestrians. In fact, they are the only two suspension bridges in NYC that carry both cars and rail traffic.

Pedestrians entering from Manhattan do so from Delancey and Clinton Street. Note that this is also where cyclists enter the bridge, so be extra careful! Biking is a great way to tour the city. You can rent a bike from Citibike rental which has many docking stations throughout NYC.

This is also a very popular bridge for cars as there are six lanes for vehicles. However, this is NYC after all, so expect there to be a bit of traffic and plan accordingly.

The Williamsburg Bridge


Plazas and Parks Nearby

The Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge Park

  • Cadman Plaza Park–located near the base of Brooklyn Bridge, you are almost sure to pass through this park if you are crossing by foot into Brooklyn. It has a large lawn space that is sometimes used for political activities, but day-to-day it is a great place to sit and relax. It is a popular destination for many local dog-walkers and contains a memorial in honor of the Brooklyn War in WWII.

Cadman Plaza Park


  • City Hall Park—On the Manhattan side, City Hall Park is just a few steps away from the Brooklyn Bridge. There are buildings in this park that date back to 1812! With an impressive group of monuments, fountains, and flower beds, this is a must-visit in NYC.

City Hall Park


 The Manhattan Bridge

  • Trinity Park—Located on Gold Street, Trinity Park is situated directly under an underpass of the bridge. There are picnic tables and benches available, making it a wonderful spot to share a quick bite or just hang out.
  • Coleman Playground—This is believed to be one of the most iconic parks in NYC. There is a skatepark, baseball field, handball court, and many spaces for families to enjoy. It also offers one of the best views of the Manhattan Bridge. It can get a bit loud though with the training crossing overhead!

Coleman Playground


The Williamsburg Bridge

  • Continental Army Plaza—Marked by a statue of George Washington, the Continental Army Plaza is a great park suited for sunbathing, birdwatching, and enjoying the atmosphere.  It is located on the Brooklyn side and was built around the same time that the Williamsburg Bridge was erected.

Continental Army Plaza


  • Sara D. Roosevelt Park—The Sara D. Roosevelt Park stretches for approximately 7.8 acres on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It is named after Sara Roosevelt, who was the mother of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32ndpresident of the United States.

Sara D. Roosevelt Park


Appearances in Popular Culture and Media

The Brooklyn Bridge

  • Love LocksWalking along the Brooklyn Bridge, you may notice clusters of locks along walkway. It has become somewhat of a tradition for couples to write their initials on a lock, secure it on the bridge, lock it, and throw away the key. If you’re thinking of participating, we highly advise against it. The practice is actually illegal and those caught will be issued a $100 fine! The city of New York spends a healthy amount of funds (approximately $100 000) towards removing them each year.
  • An Architectural Wonder—On multiple occasions, the Brooklyn Bridge has been recognized for its striking architectural qualities. Montgomery Schuyler, a distinguished architecture critic positively reviewed it in Harper’s Weekly.

  The Manhattan Bridge

  • Famous Movies—The Manhattan has served as a filming location for many well-known blockbusters, including The Godfather, Goodfellas, The Dark Knight Rises, Spider-Man, and American Gangster.

The Williamsburg Bridge

  • Famous Films—Like the Manhattan Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge has also made an appearance in a fair share of cinematic works. If you look closely, you may recognize it in The French Connection, The Amazing Spider-Man, and Once Upon a Time in America.
  • Written Works—The Manhattan Bridge is mentioned in a novel written by Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It is also alluded to in The Alienist and City of Bones.

The Williamsburg Bridge 11

Source: Instagram

Interesting Facts

 The Brooklyn Bridge

  • A rooster was one of the first to cross the bridge

Emily Warren Roebling, the daughter-in-law of John A. Roebling, was the first human to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. She rode across in a horse-drawn carriage and carried with her a rooster, which was meant to bring tidings of good luck for the opening of the new bridge.

  • When it was built, the Brooklyn Bridge was the worlds first steel-wire suspension bridge

Since its construction, this iconic bridge has served as the model for many bridges afterwards.

The Manhattan Bridge

  • It used to tilt when trains were crossing

Railway tracks were implemented in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, approximately 10 years after they were added, it was observed that the bridge would tilt to one side when trains were crossing. In 1956, a massive renovation was done to fix this problem.

  • It originally had statues that represented the two boroughs connected by the bridge

The statue featured two female figures, one named “Miss Brooklyn”, the other “Miss Manhattan”. They were located at the Brooklyn entrance. In 1960, the statues were removed as they were considered a distraction. Now, the original statue resides in the Brooklyn Art Museum.

The Williamsburg Bridge

  • The designer may have taken some ideas from the Eiffel Tower

Leffert Buck, the chief engineer, worked with Alexandre Gustav Eiffel, who designed the Eiffel Tower. Some structural likenesses may have been due to their close relationship.

  • When construction started, New York and Brooklyn were still considered to be separate cities

Brooklyn became a New York borough in 1898 while construction of the Williamsburg Bridge began in 1896.

Which bridge should I visit?

With almost 2000 bridges, there are many famous bridges in NYC. Some are amazing achievements of architecture while others are rich in historical significance.

Whether you are looking for a place to relax or enjoy views of the city, we recommend visiting all three of these bridges if you have the time—they are all marvelous attractions in their own unique ways.

However, if time is limited, and you can only visit one, I would advice to choose the Brooklyn Bridge since visiting Brooklyn Bridge is among one of the best things to do in Brooklyn.

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