One of the most iconic structures in Queens turns 100 years old today, March 9, and several community groups are hosting events to celebrate and educate residents on its historical significance.
Antonio Meloni, director of New York Anti-Crime Agency and president of the Astoria Civic Association, organized several meetings in 2016 to bring together groups interested in paying homage to the Hell Gate Bridge. The celebration will consist of a number of events in Astoria throughout the entire year.
Meloni’s group, which was founded in 1984, has hosted cleanups around the bridge and is responsible for organizing the creation of more than a dozen murals near the structure to beautify the area.
“We growing up here felt such a kinship to the bridge and we still do,” he told QNS.
Construction on the bridge started on March 1, 1912 and was completed on Sept. 30, 1916. It was officially open to rail traffic on March 9, 2017.
The bridge’s name is a spin on the Dutch word Hellegat, which means “hell channel.” The name is fitting considering the East River was the scene of one of the city’s worst maritime disasters. On June 15, 1904 the steamboat “General Slocum” caught fire and sank in the East River near the bridge, killing 1,021 of 1,342 passengers.