All photos courtesy of NYC DOT
The Brooklyn Bridge is starting the New Year with a major “glow up.” The city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled on Thursday a new lighting system on the iconic landmark that includes 56 new energy-efficient LED lights illuminating its famous towers. The new lights are part of a four-year, $300 million restoration project to remove dirt and restore the mortar between every stone on the bridge, returning the towers to their original light gray color.
“Everyone loves a good new year’s ‘glow up,’ and thanks to our new energy-efficient LED lighting system, the iconic Brooklyn Bridge will shine bright for all New Yorkers to enjoy. One of NYC DOT’s most cherished responsibilities is maintaining ‘America’s Eiffel Tower,’ and these new lights will showcase its beauty for decades to come,” DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, said.
The new lighting system and renovation project are part of DOT’s effort to preserve the 140-year-old bridge, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The lights, which are expected to last for 20 years, cost $2.4 million and took DOT five months to install.
The last time the bridge’s towers were illuminated was in 1983 for its centennial celebration.
As part of the renovation project, DOT workers meticulously cleaned every individual stone and brick on the bridge. By scrubbing the limestone, granite, brick, steel, and cement that make up the bridge, damaging grime was removed from the pores of each stone which contributed to corrosion and an overall unaesthetic appearance. The mortar that holds the stones together was replaced with materials sourced from the same quarry as the original mortar.
Now, decades of dirt, grime, and pollution buildup that have given the bridge’s towers an unsightly brown appearance have given way to a pleasant light gray, the tower’s original color.
When it opened to the public in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was the world’s longest suspension bridge. Today, it is one of New York City’s most famous landmarks and carries roughly 120,000 vehicles, 30,000 pedestrians, and 4,000 cyclists every day, according to DOT. A two-way protected bike lane opened on the bridge in 2021.
To further improve the Brooklyn Bridge experience, the city has worked to enhance the public areas surrounding the crossing. Last May, Mayor Eric Adams announced the reopening of “The Arches,” a one-acre public space with basketball, pickleball, shuffleboard, and seating under the Manhattan side of the bridge. The open space, which had been closed for more than a decade, is a small section of a larger area that was once known as the “mecca” of skateboarding within the five boroughs.
Earlier this month, NYC Parks released a request for proposals (RFP) seeking contractors to operate a seasonal outdoor activity center for up to six years at the two-lot Anchorage Plaza, located on Old Fulton Street and Washington Street and connected by a ramp known as “Ash Alley” underneath the Brooklyn side of the bridge. According to the RFP, the Parks Department is seeking proposals for “park appropriate” activities like paddle ball, public art or performances, a dog run, and food and drink vendors.
To improve public safety on the bridge, Adams this month banned vending on all 789 of the city’s bridges. Proposed by the mayor in the fall, the ban specifically targets overcrowding on the Brooklyn Bridge, which has seen a surge in both illegal vendors and pedestrians in recent years, creating safety issues on the congested crossing.