Willis Avenue Bridge Live Cam

A swing bridge that carries road traffic northbound over the Harlem River


The Willis Avenue Bridge is a swing bridge that spans the Harlem River in New York City, connecting the boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx. The bridge was named after Benjamin Willis, who was the president of the New York City Board of Public Works when the bridge was built.

The original Willis Avenue Bridge was built in 1901 and was a single-deck swing bridge that opened horizontally to allow boats to pass through. It was designed by Alfred Pancoast Boller and was one of the first swing bridges in the city. The bridge was a major transportation link between the Bronx and Manhattan, and it played a crucial role in the development of the Bronx.

Over time, the bridge became increasingly outdated and was in need of major repairs. In the 1920s, plans were made to replace the bridge with a new, double-deck structure that would accommodate both cars and trains. The new bridge was designed by David B. Steinman and was completed in 1951.

The new Willis Avenue Bridge was a marvel of engineering at the time, with a main span of 350 feet and a total length of 2,500 feet. It was designed to handle heavy traffic and was able to accommodate both cars and trains on its two levels. The upper level was for cars and the lower level was for trains.

In 2007, the bridge underwent a major rehabilitation project to address structural issues and bring it up to modern safety standards. The project took several years to complete and involved replacing the bridge's concrete deck and steel trusses, as well as upgrading the bridge's electrical and mechanical systems.

Today, the Willis Avenue Bridge continues to be an important transportation link between Manhattan and the Bronx, carrying thousands of cars and trucks every day. It is also a historic landmark and a testament to the ingenuity of the engineers and designers who built it.

Historical Facts

  • The original Willis Avenue Bridge was the first swing bridge over the Harlem River and was considered a major engineering feat at the time of its construction.
  • The construction of the original bridge was funded by a $2 million bond issue, which was approved by New York City voters in 1895.
  • When the original bridge opened in 1901, it was only 50 feet wide and had a weight limit of 10 tons.
  • In 1914, the bridge was converted from horse-drawn to electric streetcar service, making it the first electric streetcar bridge in New York City.
  • During World War II, the original bridge was painted with camouflage colors to make it less visible to enemy aircraft.
  • The new Willis Avenue Bridge, which replaced the original bridge in 1951, was built at a cost of $21.6 million.
  • The new bridge was dedicated on November 23, 1951, and was opened to traffic the following day.
  • In 2008, the Willis Avenue Bridge was designated a New York City landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
  • The bridge has been featured in several movies and television shows, including "Law and Order," "Spider-Man," and "The Dark Knight Rises."
In popular culture

The Willis Avenue Bridge has appeared in several movies, TV shows, and music videos. Here are a few notable examples:

  • The bridge is featured in the opening credits of the television show "Law & Order," which shows a police car crossing the bridge.
  • In the movie "Spider-Man" (2002), the bridge is shown collapsing during a battle between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin.
  • The bridge appears in the music video for the song "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, which shows the two artists performing on the bridge.
  • In the movie "The Dark Knight Rises" (2012), the bridge is shown being destroyed by Bane and his men.
  • The bridge is also featured in the video game "Grand Theft Auto IV," which is set in a fictionalized version of New York City called Liberty City.

Overall, the Willis Avenue Bridge has become an iconic symbol of New York City and has played a memorable role in several works of popular culture.

Public transportation

Currently, the Willis Avenue Bridge does not have any public transportation options. The bridge is designed primarily for vehicular traffic, and there are no dedicated bike lanes or pedestrian sidewalks. However, there are several bus routes that run on either side of the bridge that provide access to nearby neighborhoods and subway stations.

On the Manhattan side, the M35 bus runs along the Harlem River Drive and provides service to areas such as Harlem, East Harlem, and Randalls Island. The closest subway station to the bridge on the Manhattan side is the 125th Street Station, which serves the 4, 5, and 6 subway lines.

On the Bronx side, the BX15 bus runs along Third Avenue and provides service to areas such as Melrose, Morrisania, and Fordham. The closest subway station to the bridge on the Bronx side is the 3rd Avenue-138th Street Station, which serves the 6 subway line.

Overall, while the Willis Avenue Bridge itself does not have any public transportation options, there are several bus routes and subway stations in the surrounding area that provide access to nearby neighborhoods and destinations.

Old bridge

The original Willis Avenue Bridge was a swing bridge that was in operation from 1901 until 1951. The bridge was a single-deck structure that opened horizontally to allow boats to pass through the Harlem River. The original bridge was designed by Alfred Pancoast Boller and was considered a major engineering feat at the time of its construction.

However, by the 1920s, the original bridge had become outdated and was in need of major repairs. It was also too narrow to accommodate the growing volume of traffic between the Bronx and Manhattan. As a result, plans were made to replace the bridge with a new, double-deck structure that would accommodate both cars and trains.

The original Willis Avenue Bridge was dismantled in 1951 and was replaced by the new bridge, which was designed by David B. Steinman. The original bridge was made of wrought iron and steel and was dismantled and sold for scrap after its replacement.

New bridge

The current Willis Avenue Bridge is a double-deck swing bridge that was opened to traffic on November 23, 1951. It was designed by renowned bridge engineer David B. Steinman, who also designed several other notable bridges, including the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan and the Bayonne Bridge in New Jersey.

The bridge is 2,400 feet long and 75 feet wide, with two decks that carry six lanes of traffic, including two lanes for trucks and buses, and a pedestrian walkway. The bridge has a vertical clearance of 24 feet when closed and can be opened to allow boats to pass through. When the bridge swings open, it pivots on a central pier and creates a 209-foot wide channel in the river.

The bridge is a vital link between the boroughs of the Bronx and Manhattan, and it provides access to several important neighborhoods, including Mott Haven, Port Morris, and East Harlem. Over the years, the bridge has undergone several major renovations and repairs to ensure its continued safety and reliability.

Overall, the Willis Avenue Bridge is an iconic structure in New York City, known for its unique design and important role in connecting communities on both sides of the Harlem River.

Top 10 Things to do with the Family in NYC
1. Big Apple Greeter

Make this the first item in your trip-planning! Friendly New Yorkers volunteer to show tourists around their favorite town. A great (and free) way to see the city with someone who is passionate about the city they live in.

"Greets" vary with each visitor: visitors are asked about their interests when they sign up or you can simply leave it up to the greeter. One common denominator is that all Greets teach visitors how to use the New York subway system: call it empowerment! Now you can get around town cheaply and conveniently.

2. Movie Tours

Explore the city through some of its settings for films and tv shows, on a guided tour that matches film clips inside the tour bus with the real-life New York outside.

On Location Tours offers several choices, including a Manhattan TV and Movie Tour that has locations for Friends, Seinfeld, Spiderman, Take photos at the firehouse used in Ghostbusters, and sit on the steps of the Cosby townhouse!

A great way to spend the afternoon viewing some of the most famous locations in TV and Film History.

3. Lower east side tenement museum

ou want your teen to have fun in NYC; but also to learn some history. Those huddled masses who crossed oceans, who toiled in sweatshops: it's all so dramatic, but to a teen...? How to bring history to life?

One-hour guided tours explore the actual apartments where people lived a hundred-odd years ago: see a "sweatshop" where a family raised kids and made their living in the garment industry.

4. Grand Central Station

This Beaux-Arts landmark is in the heart of Manhattan at 42nd and Park and will impress even the most reluctant sightseer. Drop by to admire the giant hall; take a free tour if you have the time.

Definitely head downstairs to the impressive food concourse: join throngs of New Yorkers for lunch, or perhaps simply refuel with a delicious, high-calorie dessert.

5. See a Broadway Play

Speaking of 42nd Street: that was the classic Broadway play I saw with my middle son, at a matinee. Lion King, Hairspray, Rent are long-running choices. Alternatively, you may want to see the play du jour. On a more recent trip with my eldest son, Spamalot -- reprise of Monty Python and the Holy Grail-- was the crowd-pleaser.

By the way: during one visit, we tried buying last-minute seats at Times Square: yes, they're half-price, but the price they're half of is $120. Also, choice plays sell out fast. So we headed to the 42nd Street theater and simply bought seats for 30 bucks. We were "in the gods" but the view was fine.

6. Harbour tour

Circle Line offers several choices for tours of the harbor, including a 3-hour outing; but with a teen, a shorter tour is probably best.

In summer, Circle Line operates "The Beast" speed boat: a short, high-speed ride; no guide commentary, but The Beast is sure to be a hit with teens.

The Beast leaves from Pier 83, West 42nd Street. Another fun choice for teens is " The Shark ", also a thrill speedboat ride through the harbor.

Tip: Buy a CityPass that includes five other attractions-- a great way to save money on admission tickets.

7. Natural History Museum

This venerable institution has unparalleled collections and is also just plain fun for any age. Highlights are: special exhibits (really well done) ; the Hayden Planetarium in the Rose Center for Earth and Space; and -- dinosaurs! Real, giant, dinosaur skeletons, many of them, and some you can even touch!

Plan on a long visit, and take a break at the kid-friendly restaurant on the lower floor.

Explore more at the Natural History Museum site. Note: This museum is on the upper east side of Central Park-- another definite must-see for any visitor in New York.

8. NBC Studio Tour

If your teen is a fan of Saturday Night Live, or Conan O'Brian, put this on your list.

Head to Rockefeller Plaza, where NBC has been headquartered for decades; and make your way to the NBC Experience Store, where you can buy a ticket for the Studio Tour, or a tour of Rockefeller Center.

The Studio Tour starts with a pretty interesting retrospective about NBC and broadcasting history. Then your group will proceed to several of the working studios for NBC shows: for example, Studio 1A is the home of the Today show, Studio 6A is the home of Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and Studio 8H is where Saturday Night Live takes place.

9. Toy Stores!

Forget old-style "going shopping": these stores go way beyond being a retail space, into the zone of fun experiences.

Games, crafts, live theatre, restaurants, ferris wheels... you name it. Six New York Toy stores that go all out: American Girl Place, F.A.O.Schwarz, Build-a-Bear, Toys R US, Nintendo World, and The Scholastic Store.

They may be aimed at younger children, but it would be hard not to enjoy yourself at these places.

10. The Bronx Zoo

This is bound to be a fascinating trip for anyone of any age, and offers the opportunity to View wildlife up close, instead of on a TV screen.