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High Bridge Reopens To Bikes, Pedestrians For First Time In 45 Years

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- New York City's oldest standing bridge designed for pedestrians and bicyclists reopened Tuesday for the first time in 45 years.

The High Bridge, with its stone arches evoking ancient Rome, was built in the mid-1800s. It spans the Harlem River, connecting Manhattan's Washington Heights and the Bronx's Highbridge neighborhoods.

High Bridge Reopens To Bikes, Pedestrians For First Time In 45 Years

"Today, ladies and gentleman, we are remarrying Manhattan," Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said during a ceremony high above the Harlem River.

"One thousand four hundred fifty feet for biking, walking, running and taking in some incredible New York City views," Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver told reporters, including CBS2's Meg Baker and WCBS 880's Alex Silverman.

"Downtown Manhattan may have the High Line, but Uptown, we have the High Bridge," Diaz added.

Built in 1848, the High Bridge was originally a part of the city's water supply system, carrying water from the Croton River in Westchester County down to the growing city of Manhattan. It became a popular promenade that attracted hotels, restaurants and amusement parks to the area.

"If it were not for the water from upstate, New York probably would not have been the mecca of the universe," Diaz said.

By the mid-1960s that all began to wane with construction of the Major Deegan Expressway and the Harlem River Drive.

The bridge was closed in the 1970s. The $61.8 million restoration began in January 2013.

"This is a symbol of New York's history," said the Parks Department's Ellen Macnow, who has been fighting to restore the span since the late '90s. "At the time that it was built, it was actually a symbol of New York's future."

The bridge will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Members of the community were already taking full advantage of the new route Tuesday.

"I'm up here as part of a club, and we're scouting out this as a new route for our rides around the five boroughs," said bicyclist Michael Beltzer.

Bronxites will now have access to the Highbridge Pool and Recreation Center and more than 130 acres of parkland.

Historic sites near the span include Bennett Park, Manhattan's highest point. The Little Red Light House under the George Washington Bridge also is nearby.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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