Once or twice a week I cross the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (or commonly known as the BQE) to go to the eastern part of Williamsburg, where the local library is and also where my daughter’s Chinese teacher lives. On those walks I have often thought about a similar space, a similar bridge I used to frequent, in a very different city, the one where my co-blogger is currently living.
The Yerevan bridge which runs across the Beirut river from Achrafieh turns into an overpass that straddles Bourj Hammoud and Sin el Fil. On one side you have the bustling, well-established Armenian neighborhood and on the other you have Nabaa, a very diverse, densely populated low-income, high-migrant neighborhood. The houses on both sides of the bridge are so close that if you open the window you could probably walk right onto it.
Life was always bustling next to and under the bridge, embracing this concrete, pollution and noise creating monstrosity as part of the essence of city. The BQE is no different in this respect. Buildings are closely aligned along the bridge, many apartments have direct view of the cars and trucks rumbling pass. The crossings are busily frequented by residents who live on either side of the same neighborhood, passing through to go to the park, library, subway, school. There are even many expensive condos being built right next to the bridge, indignant to the roars and swirling dust, as if it knows that the desperation of potential tenants willing to pay exorbitant amounts to live in this part of the city outweigh any concerns for their health and safety.
Because life by the bridge is dangerous. At the same crossing where I pass by once or twice a week, a 21 year old girl, Marisol Martinez, was killed by a bus a year ago. The flowers at the crossing is in memory of her and reminds us to not forget the brutal incidents that have occurred next to this brutalist piece of urban planning.
So this is not an ode to the bridges of New York and Beirut, but to the fragility of lives that surround it and must accept and deal daily with its existence.