Throughout the 20th century, gantry cranes were used to transport people and goods to/from barges and ships along New York City’s coasts. At the time that the gantries were built, manufacturing jobs were drawing people from across the world to the Big Apple. As the city slowly became industrialized and more bridges were built, trucks became the main means for moving goods around. Consequently, gantries went out of use by the 1980s.
Today, you can still spot a few gantries along the city’s waterfront. Two of them are located in Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City and were originally built in the 1920s. These particular gantries were used to lift trains that arrived from Long Island onto barges in the East River to supply the rest of the nation with different goods. Another gantry, located at 69th Street on the Hudson River, was built in 1911 and served as a floating bridge that aided in the transfer of trains from land to water. The train cars were then transported from Manhattan’s Upper West Side to Weehawken, New Jersey by ferries.
Over the past years, development projects in the neighborhoods around gantries have led to their revitalization. The most popular ones are in Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City and Domino Park in Williamsburg.
In 1998, the two gantries in Gantry Plaza State Park were repainted black and the words “Long Island” were written across them in bright red letters. The gantries became a main focal point in the redevelopment project along Long Island City’s waterfront, which included the construction of the 10-acre Gantry Plaza State Park. The railroad tracks are still visible in parts of the park, hinting at its history.
Further south, in Williamsburg, the gantry crane that lifted sugar from ships that arrived from Caribbean plantations was repainted turquoise blue during the construction of Domino Park. The 6-acre park was built on the former site of the Domino Sugar Refinery, which operated there from the 1880s to 2004.