On the heels of my widely-discussed and widely-shared ranking of all of New York City’s parkways and highways, I present the only correct ranking of the bridges of New York, of which there are 39 that matter, and thus are worth ranking.
The total number of bridges in New York City isn’t exact, standing somewhere between 790 and 2,000 depending on how you count them, or what you count as a bridge.
I myself have defined “bridge” thusly: A bridge in this context is a structure of some significance that you think of as a bridge. If you’re humming along I-278 and cross the Eastern Boulevard Bridge, you will think that you are merely crossing a part of the interstate, not a distinct structure, even if, technically, what you have just crossed is a bridge. (I have included some though, like the Alexander Hamilton Bridge, on which I-95 crosses the Harlem River. This process was not scientific.) I have also not included bridges that only carry trains, or bridges that are only for pedestrians, since those are not accessible to cars and this is, nominally, a website about cars.
Note: The words following the commas in the title of each entry indicate the name of the body of the water the bridge crosses, followed by the land it connects. In doing so, it may appear that I have privileged some places over others, though in reality I didn’t give much thought to the order in which the places appeared.
1. Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, The Narrows, Staten Island To Brooklyn
The best, and by a country mile. It’s the biggest, it’s the longest. Three men gave their lives building it. It’s 90 percent of the time the best way to leave the city for points west, as opposed to driving through Manhattan. The most fun you can have driving in the city begins when you pass the south toll booths and begin accelerating over the bridge’s top deck, and you look up to see the towers and you can fully appreciate its grandeur. Then you hit the BQE and, if you’re lucky, have a clear path north, taking the ramp to the Brooklyn Bridge before driving over that. Then you’re driving in Manhattan and you’re in hell. Everything before that: four stars.
2. Grand Street Bridge, Newtown Creek, Brooklyn
The only one-lane bridge (that matters) in the city. A pure delight. You’d be fucking insane to hate this bridge.
3. Queensboro Bridge, East River, Manhattan To Queens
You know who else liked the Queensboro Bridge? Some writer named F. Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote in The Great Gatsby, “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.”
True. Take the upper level. Always take the upper level.
4. Brooklyn Bridge, East River, Brooklyn To Manhattan
The world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge. You may have heard of this one. You also may have been told to “walk over it,” which is fine to do once, but susbsequent pedestrian trips should be taken over the Queensboro Bridge, which offers better views without all the tourists and bikers.
5. Henry Hudson Bridge, Spuyten Duyvil Creek, Manhattan To Bronx
This bridge is brief but extremely exciting to drive over. I think it also might be the only bridge in the city in which the lower level is preferable to the upper level. Feels real cozy down there.
6. Union Street Bridge, Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn
6. Carroll Street Bridge, Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn
6. Third Street Bridge, Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn
6. Ninth Street Bridge, Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn
6. Hamilton Avenue Bridge, Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn
All of these bridges are roughly the same length, and delightful in their own ways. I think the Carroll Street Bridge is my favorite, though give them all a shot and pick your own. I couldn’t bear to put one over the other.
11. Third Avenue Bridge, Harlem River, Manhattan To Bronx
11. Willis Avenue Bridge, Harlem River, Manhattan To Bronx
These two are very functional, and are cheats for when you are coming down from Westchester and want to avoid paying tolls at the Triborough, so instead you take the Deegan to the Third Avenue Bridge, which ferries you directly to the FDR. The opposite trip is just as functional, as the FDR takes you directly to the Willis Avenue Bridge, which takes you directly to the Deegan heading north. Getting to the Bruckner Expressway going south is a bit more work, involving a side trip on Bruckner Boulevard, but you can’t have it all.
13. Broadway Bridge, Harlem River, Manhattan To Bronx
This bridge, I promise you, is very fun, because there’s just so much going on, on a bridge that doesn’t quite seem up to handling it all. There’s cars and trains and people and a hint of unruliness about it, since you’re driving over steel grates. It’s a little dangerous, frankly. Good bridge.
14. George Washington Bridge, Hudson River, Manhattan To New Jersey
You’ve probably heard of this bridge, which funnels cars and trucks into the city from Fort Lee, New Jersey. It’s mostly fine. Very terrifying to walk over, since it is so high, an experience I can’t really recommend. If you’re in a car, take the lower level. Driving the upper level in a car, you feel constantly at risk of being squashed by one of the many trucks up there. (Trucks have been banned from the lower level since after 9/11.)
15. City Island Bridge, Eastchester Bay, City Island To Bronx
Getting to the City Island Bridge is a bit like discovering a secret. The bridge itself is unremarkable, but it gets points for getting you to City Island, one of the most delightful places in the city. Fun fact: Oliver Sacks lived on City Island and would swim around it in the morning, which sounds like the perfect existence. Visit City Island.
16. Bronx–Whitestone Bridge, East River, Bronx To Queens
This is better than the alternative, the Throgs Neck Bridge, but not that much better.
17. Kosciuszko Bridge, Newtown Creek, Brooklyn To Queens
This used to be the city’s worst bridge, and has now been upgraded to a middling New York City bridge, after a $554 million replacement bridge was completed earlier this year. The new bridge, as a bridge, isn’t bad! It’s also smooth and pretty to look at. There’s always a lot of traffic, though, which I thought the new bridge might help fix, since it’s lower than the old bridge, and drivers are afraid of inclines, but it hasn’t, so.
18. Mill Basin Bridge, Mill Basin, Brooklyn
18. Marine Parkway–Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, Rockaway Inlet, Brooklyn To Queens
18. Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, Jamaica Bay, Queens
18. The Joseph P. Addabbo Memorial Bridge, Jamaica Bay, Queens
If you’re on one of these bridges, you’re probably going to the beach! Decent bridges.
22. Triborough Bridge, East River, Queens To Manhattan Or The Bronx
It always somehow feels smaller than it should, since, from a distance, it looks mighty. So, it’s a disappointment, yes. Also, I heard they tried to rename it recently but get out of here with that trash.
23. Roosevelt Island Bridge, East River, Manhattan To Queens
Takes you to Roosevelt Island, one of the stranger New York enclaves, which feels both bustling and totally empty in parts. The bridge also leads to what I think is New York’s biggest parking garage.
24. Throgs Neck Bridge, East River, Queens To Bronx
25. Macombs Dam Bridge, Harlem River, Bronx To Manhattan
The best way to get to a Yankees game might just be the Bx6 over the Macombs Dam Bridge. Give it a shot some time. Very relaxing.
26. Pulaski Bridge, Newtown Creek, Brooklyn To Queens
I used to walk home over this bridge when I had a job in Greenpoint, and it’s a lovely walk, and certainly preferable to relying on the G train. And I think I would rank it higher except that the bridge opens for passing ships a lot more frequently then you might assume. And it’s surprising every time and annoying. Points deducted. The view’s nice, though.
27. Manhattan Bridge, East River, Brooklyn To Manhattan
Deputy Editor Michael Ballaban says this is “the best bridge in New York.” Nah.
28. Williamsburg Bridge, East River, Brooklyn To Manhattan
Very walkable, though a slog to drive over, even if, usually, when you’re going west it’s a smooth transition to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
29. Pelham Bridge, Hutchinson River, The Bronx
Seems fine though, it’s the most used drawbridge in the city, which is bad news for drivers.
30. Outerbridge Crossing, Arthur Kill, Staten Island To New Jersey
30. Goethals Bridge, Arthur Kill, Staten Island To New Jersey
I actually like these two bridges, and one of them is usually the best way to sneak into Brooklyn if you’re coming from points south or west. They just suffer by comparison to some of New York’s other bridges. I’m aware this take is weak. In recompense, a fun fact: the Outerbridge was named for Eugenius Harvey Outerbridge, the first chairman of the Port of New York Authority (now known as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey).
32. 145th Street Bridge, Harlem River, Manhattan To Bronx
32. University Heights Bridge, Harlem River, Manhattan To Bronx
32. Alexander Hamilton Bridge, Harlem River, Manhattan To Bronx
32. Madison Avenue Bridge, Harlem River, Manhattan To Bronx
These are all basically the same and not so much bad as completely unremarkable.
36. Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, Newtown Creek, Brooklyn To Queens
A part of the neighborhood which you have the ambient sense is highly dangerous. Also usually full of extremely thirsty and aggressive drivers who can taste the Long Island Expressway, which isn’t far beyond the bridge. These are angry and aggressive drivers who long to sit in the parking lot that is the Long Island Expressway.
37. Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, Newtown Creek, Brooklyn
Because of poor traffic design, it’s usually a clusterfuck of trucks, all stopped. You will not feel good after having crossed the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge.
38. Bayonne Bridge, Kill Van Kull, Staten Island To New Jersey
39. Rikers Island Bridge, East River, Queens To Bronx
It’s not really the bridge’s fault that it funnels prisoners into one of the worst jails in America, but, you know, it does.