Saturday, January 30, 2010

The View From The Bridge

The view from the George Washington Bridge gets me every time. Not as much as the first few times I crossed the GWB and gazed down towards Manhattan, but it's still gripping nonetheless. On a perfectly clear night like we had yesterday, the lights are impossibly dense and bright. They peak at the Empire State Building and below that slowly slope towards either end of the island. I imagine back before September 11th the Twin Towers would have played a prominent role in the skyline, but now the height of the Financial District is disguised by shorter buildings in the foreground.

The GWB has always been my conduit into Manhattan - well at least since I was old enough to drive and figured out that using the Major Deegan was for suckers. Coming from Upstate, I take I-87 to Rt. 17 to Rt. 4. Others take the Palisades, but the gas is cheaper the way that I go. And every time I go that way and funnel down through the approach to the lower level of the bridge, drive through the tolls and make my way through the short tunnel before it begins, I anticipate the view. Sometimes it's too hazy or foggy or rainy to really see, but I turn my head and look just the same.

Everyone has their own way of entering New York. Long ago Ellis Island was that way for millions, with the buildings appearing over miles and miles of ocean after a seemingly interminable journey from Europe. Today, many come in through Penn Station and get a feeling in the pit of their stomach when they first step outside and crane their neck in an effort to find the tops of the skyscrapers. Some look left when descending down the spiraling entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel and see the heart of Midtown rise from the Hudson River. Plenty see the skyline start to rise as they drive down I-495 towards the Mitdown Tunnel. Others press their face to the window of a plane to observe the perfect grid of the streets from high above.

Whatever it is, it's hard to miss the moment that you realize you're here when you arrive.


  1. Having been born in 1937 in Manhattan and living there for almost all of my first 32 years, I feel qualified to add 2 more: coming off I-78 on the Holland Tunnel approach, going past the Statue of Liberty and driving north, parallel to the island, then descending into the tunnel (best at night), and 2/ coming from the Belt Pkwy around the west side of Brooklyn, on to the Gowanus, and as you rise up and over, seeing the entire skyline ahead of you (best at sunrise/sunset).


  2. Thanks a lot for those additions, Fan. I've never taken either one of those approaches so your perspective is much appreciated.