After a long reconstruction project, the reopening of the High Bridge is just around the corner.
City officials joined elementary school students from Highbridge on June 1 to start the official countdown to the opening of the pedestrian walkway to Manhattan on June 9.
The event, held at P.S.11 by the Bronx Children’s Museum, featured the presentation of a new picture book, “The Lowdown on the Highbridge,” written by museum supporter Sonia Manzano, known to kids as Maria from ‘Sesame Street.’
Maintained by NYC Parks, the High Bridge is a former aqueduct and pedestrian bridge and is the oldest standing bridge in New York City. Closed for the past 40 years, the $62 million project broke ground in 2013.
In advance of the bridge’s reopening, the Bronx Children’s Museum, a ‘museum without walls’ until its Mill Pond Park location opens in 2017, developed programming to teach kids from Highbridge about the landmark their neighborhood is named after, with lessons in history and as well as science, technology, engineering, art and math subjects.
“It felt like the High Bridge was the perfect educational tool,” said museum director Carla Precht.
The subject fit into the museum’s stated mission to inspire children and families to learn about themselves and the diversity and richness of their surroundings, as well as the world beyond, but Precht was dismayed to learn that there weren’t any books about the High Bridge to utilize in the lessons.
That’s where Manzano, a published author and friend of the museum, came into play. She wrote the book, aimed at ages 3 to 9, from the point of view of the bridge, telling the story of its construction starting in 1838, its decades of use, and its ultimate decline.
The book will be distributed to 3,300 students in eight High Bridge schools during the month of June, before becoming available for purchase in July.
“There are some things I’ve learned already,” said Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. about the book, which Manzano read aloud at the event.
In addition to providing opportunities for learning, the reopened High Bridge will create new opportunities for Bronxites to get outside and exercise, said NYC Park Commissioner Mitchell Silver.
“I’m excited because all of you and your families will have a chance to walk and bike and get healthy,” he said.
The bridge provides a connection to the city’s history, as well as a restored physical connection to Manhattan, said Silver.
“We’re so glad we can restore this bridge so your generation and future generations can enjoy it,” he told the students.