A major exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Throgs Neck Bridge and Clearview Expressway – which arguably changed Bayside as much as the glacier that put it here – is opening in May at the .
“We’re looking for people who were here and were affected by it,” said Allison McKay, the Society’s archivist of the projects, begun in 1957.
Meticulously researched through interviews with construction workers and engineers from the actual projects, the exhibit is also scheduled to include presentations by fearless photographer David (“please call me Dave”) Frieder.
Frieder, and admirer of legendary photographer Ansel Adams and friend of the family, has earned fame for climbing every major bridge in New York City to photograph them and surrounding vistas. He’s a fan of the Throgs Neck.
“It’s one of the last bridges designed by Othmar Amman, who also designed the George Washington, Robert F. Kennedy, Bronx-Whitestone and Verrazano-Narrows Bridge,” Frieder said.
“It’s one of the more difficult to photograph from an artist’s point of view because it’s more ‘muscular’ in it’s design, although from inside, the Throgs Neck towers are identical to the Verrazano,” he added.
Frieder proved to be a valuable source according to McKay, because of his close communication with bridge authorities and workers – until the 9/11 attacks closed access to the city’s bridges. “The state doesn’t have a problem though; I’ll be photographing the Mid-Hudson Bridge this spring,” he said.
The bridge and expressway were two of the last major transportation projects of New York’s “Master Builder,” Robert Moses. The 2,910 foot-long bridge was opened in 1961 and the Clearview approach was completed in time for Moses’ other pet project, the 1963-64 World’s Fair.
Some 421 private homes had to be demolished or moved to new foundations to make way for the 5.3 mile highway, although the original plan called for the approach road to closely follow Utopia Parkway/Francis Lewis Boulevard, which would have impacted double the number.
During the height of road construction, on average, two houses every few days were lifted off their foundations, placed on giant trailers and moved over local streets to their new locations, records show.
“Mostly, the houses north of Northern Boulevard were relocated to the former Bayside Golf Course; those to the south went to Oakland Gardens,” McKay explained. The southerly site, formerly the Oakland Golf Club, also hosts .
“We’re not only collecting photographs and documents, but also making video histories, with the assistance of Holy Cross High School’s Audiovisual Department,” said McKay.
According to department head Mike Genovese, “We have three classes involved, in the interviewing, recording and editing and other facets of production. It’s a great opportunity for our students.”
“These projects really impacted Bayside, and not just in a bad way,” McKay said. “Bayside High School got its athletic field when the city bought the Bayside course from the developer who owned it,” she explained.
In a historical twist, Robert Moses and another World’s Fair also impacted Bayside with construction of the Whitestone Bridge and Cross Island Parkway.
It was those projects that provided the impetus for the Society’s last major exhibit, “Bayside on the Edge of Modernity,” an overview of the neighborhood in 1939.
“This exhibition is even more ambitious. It will run for a year and we may even make it available for tour,” McKay said.
Check back in with Patch to see some of Frieder's—and our own—spectacular photos of the Throgs Neck Bridge. To contribute to the project, visit www.baysidehistorical.org.