Trials and Tribulations of the Tribes and the Stones

whitestone style twin lamp with westinghouse cuplightsA Triboro Single with BellThe tale about the trials, tribulations, rivalry and adaptability of two of the most iconic street lighting standards to ever grace New York City's arterial bridge and highway system, lamp posts I lovingly nicknamed after the mighty Great Depression era river crossings that heralded in their genesis.

West Side Highway light pole with 1960's mercury vapor Westinghouse cuplightsImage of a typical Miller West Side Highway twinlamp standard, with 1960's era mercury vapor "cuplight" teardrop-pendant style lamps. As discussed elsewhere on this website, the bridges and early highways built in New York City all had their own distinctive lampposts. The 1920-1930's era parkways had their own bucolic looking Woodies, a rustic wood beam lighting standard style that still survive in isolated spots. The new bridges however, led by the great godfather of their generation, the mighty Triboro Bridge, were not meant to look bucolic, but rather empirical.
Actually, the West Side Highway was New York City's pioneer, non-parkway, commercial grade arterial highway, whose roughhewn looking lampposts were intended to look like the newly built Empire State Building. Unfortuately, the West Side Highway looked uglier than most elevated railways, no easy feat to accomplish and grew steadily more gruesome with each passing year. Not helping matters were the over-the-top lamp posts, which more closely evoked the image of Satanic pitchforks than skyscrapers.
The Triboro Bridge received more polished and graceful lampposts. Also designed to evoke the awesome Empire State, they closely matched the Triboro Bridge towers.

Triboro with original acorn lights Originally adorned with acorn shaped pendant style lamps, these light poles were installed on the major approaches built at the time to connect to the Triboro Bridge. They graced what would become the northern end of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and western extension of the Grand Central Parkway in Queens. They were placed on newly widened Bruckner Boulevard and the forerunner section of the future Major Deegan Expressway in the South and West Bronx. They also graced the FDR East River Drive approach to the Triboro from Midtown Manhattan, the Henry Hudson Bridge and the Marine Park Bridge, between Brooklyn and the Rockaways.

Bruckner Triboro twinlamp with Mission Bell lampsImage of a typical post-widening Bruckner Boulevard twinlamp, shown with Mission Bell shaped lamps, most of which survived into the mid 1960's until the grand South Bronx secondary route was finally turned into a limited access arterial highway. The grand plan was for Bruckner Boulevard to become an expressway, possibly explaining why that despite it being a secondary road, it got the Triboros instead of the typical castirons relegated to such roads. Its status as a main bridge approach probably has much to do with it. The same went for the southern terminus of the Grand Concourse, which fed into the nascent Major Deegan Expressway. No other secondary roads would get them until the ongoing retro lamp post craze saw fresh aluminum casting of them planted in neighborhood settings they'd never originally been put in.

Whitestone twinlamp with Gumball lamps The Bronx-Whitestone Bridge that opened three years after the Triboro sported a leaner, plainer successor lamppost, compared to the more ornate Triboros that served as a transitory style stemming from the older cast irons. The pretense of resembling the Empire State was relegated to the light pole's tip, above the mast. The pole itself was just a plain, cylindrical standard pole until that point.
The Whitestones took over as the pole de riguer on the new expressways as New York city's erstwhile freeways were designated, from the opening of the Whitestone Bridge on, through the early-mid 1950's building of the Van Wyck and Brooklyn Queens Expressways. Whitestones preceding those highways were adorned with Gumball shaped teardrop-pendant style lamps as opposed to the latter ones given Westinghouse "cuplight" pendants.
Whitestone twin lamp with Westinghouse cuplights They lit up the southern extension of Manhattan's FDR East River Drive, the new vehicular lanes placed on the venerable Brooklyn and Queensboro Bridges, the controversial Gowanus Parkway in Brooklyn, which was later upgraded to commercial standards and incorporated into the overall Brooklyn Queens Expressway family of freeways, which also had the 'Stones on its 1950s elevated and cantilevered Brooklyn stretches south of the Kosciuszko Bridge.
Not normally associated with the parkways, they were also on the Bronx end of the Henry Hudson Parkway. Since the old Gowanus Parkway was clearly demarcated by its builder for later incorporation into a high volume, commercial grade expressway, the decision to use Stones instead of the usual Woodie wood standard parkway light poles can be understood. Less understandable is their presence on the more traditionally rustic Henry Hudson. It's possible that Robert Moses, who coordinated all these projects, planned on converting the bucolic Henry Hudson Parkway and its critically important eponymous bridge into a truck laden expressway, directly feeding into his planned Interstate 478 arterial complex via the old, ultimately doomed Miller West Side Highway.
The Stones could also be found on LaGuardia Airport ramps and the Pulaski Bridge, a short span connecting McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to Long Island City, Queens across the noxious Newtown Creek.

Twin Elliptical mast crookarms with cuplightsThey appeared on Long Island, on Nassau County's Atlantic Beach Bridge and the Robert Moses Causeway, far out in Suffolk County.
My earliest memories of them were with the cuplights, which were original issue on the Van Wyck Expressway, which my family used often. They were apparently intended to grace the Cross Bronx Expressway, which was being constructed after the Van Wyck and ended up with plain vanilla elliptical armed standards. The two sibling highways ended up with only Westinghouse cuplights in common. My memory is hazy, but I believe they were on at least part of the disjointed eastern stretch of the Cross Bronx where it met the Bruckner Expressway and both crossed over the Whitestone Bridge bound Hutchinson River Parkway. Their infamous late blooming multi-directional interchange wasn't finished until the 1970's. At that point even the Bruckner was looking for its own closure in a long twisted journey from being a mere boulevard and the two beleaguered highways were forced to join hands together crossing a drawbridge lined with Corvington style cast iron lamp posts. The sections completed from the late 1950's on, had poles with elliptical "crookarm" masts and incandescent cuplights. The Stones would not appear again on new roadway except for the 2nd Moses Causeway span in the 1960's.

Whitestone pole sporting Q-loop mast & merc fixtureBoth the Tribes and 'Stones made it into the mercury vapor cobra head luminaire era, but not without losses. Both lost their distinctive mast arms in favor of the wildly uplifting "Quarterloops" uplift arms made famous on Kojak, in particular on the BQE Brooklyn Queens Expressway in the 1960's, followed by the Van Wyck Expressway and Queensboro Bridge approach ramps in the early 1970's. The southern tip of the BQE, winding toward the Belt Parkway kept its Whitestone mast arms and incandescent lamps into the 1980's. Both light pole standards put up a fight that their castiron colleagues on the side streets could never do.
The Tribes adapted Westinghouse Silverliner vapor fixtures on the Triboro and Marine Park Bridges and the Grand Central Parkway approach to the Triboro.

Whitestone Twin with GE M400 cobra headsThe Bronx-Whitestone Bridge 'Stones kept their finned masts while adapting to the "Disgusted" looking mercury vapor GE M400 cobra heads, or perhaps more in keeping with their diamond shape and personality, viper heads. The 'Stones on the now Ed Koch, then Queensboro Bridge's upper deck, Brooklyn Bridge and FDR East River Drive kept their finned masts with Westinghouse Silverliner OV-25 cobra heads, whose slim contours more closely resembled the cobra's elapidae family.

Triboro twin lamp with TB LPS Roadway tubesSometime around the 1980's, the Triboro and Whitestone Bridges both adopted long tubed sodium fixtures, like the Thomas Betts LPS.
I always assumed that the tubes were installed to help in foggy weather. The long term survival of the Tribes and Stones on their respective namesake bridges seemed virtually assured. Wondering what luminaires they'd next wear appeared to be their only problem. If the nearby Throgs Neck Bridge offered any glimpse into the future back in the late 1990s, little cutoff fixtures like the TB113 may have been the fated successor to the LPS tubes.
The careful eye back then noticed a handful of green Stones, still adorned with cuplights, on a ramp into LaGuardia Airport spanning the Grand Central Parkway. Thanks to the stingy Port Authority, mini Whitestones with working cuplights still adorned the Henry Hudson Parkway 235th Street walkbridge. Tribes still graced the Henry Hudson's namesake bridge as of 1996 when I originally wrote this.
Sadly since I originally wrote this story in 1996, the Whitestone poles disappeared from the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge. Plain vanilla lighting standards now line the bridge along the outer edges, the poles at mid span equipped with utterly monotonous straight out mast arms and indeed as I speculated in 1996, they in turn have cutoff style cobra head luminaires attached. Their great rivals however, the Tribes, still hold court center span across the Triboro Bridge, now named for Robert F Kennedy. They too however lost their long tubes and gained yet a new generation of cutoff cobra heads. That they still grace the bridge at all, with any kind of lighting, even thin LED wafers, is a precious gift. They were lost to the combined Grand Central Parkway, Brooklyn Queens Expressway approach through Astoria however, including the harmless and distinctive stub poled Tribes that sat upon the high center median wall that marks that bridge approach. Is there danger afoot though for all the RFK Bridge Triboro survivors? Massive reconstruction on the Wards Island section where the three distinct Triboro Bridges meet meant the death of at least some center span twin lampers. Google Earth views however from late 2017 show Triboro single mast standards alive and well on the brand new outer lanes and center span twins still in place beyond the immediate reconstruction heading into the Bronx. Only time will tell. Most likely what will pass into the next generation will be aluminum recastings of the originals. As for the Whitestone poles that survived so long on the Brooklyn Bridge approaches, it looks like they're all history. Possibly the very last survivor was a twin lamp on the Brooklyn side that as late as 2014 was desperately trying to remain a useful engine, holding several signs, including the Welcome to Brooklyn banner by the Cadman Plaza exit ramp. It was so burdened with its signage and obscured by surrounding foliage, it appeared easy to miss, but I rewrite this in 2018, the more up to date Google Earth view taken when you follow the reconstructed ramp back up from Cadman Plaza shows it is gone. Perhaps most galling is that its hodge podge collection of signs survive, now fastened to a thick plain vanilla tubed pole with no mast arms or even a decorate finial topping it.
Up on the Henry Hudson Bridge, the original poles are also history, but the bridge, at least the upper deck has been a beneficiary of the retro recast craze, with shiny new Triboro style standards sporting funky retro pendant lamps. The last known Triboro twin lamp post however that held sway over the center median by Kappock Street is history. Some wonders never cease however and the mini Whitestones gracing the 235th Street walkbridge were still there in 2017, now equipped with "bucket" pendant lights. Possibly the last surviving drive lane illuminating Whitestone standards are on the Atlantic Beach side of its namesake bridge connecting Park Avenue to the Nassau Expressway and Far Rockaway. As late as 2016 several still stood astride the Park Avenue bridge approach, still adorned with 1960s era Westinghouse Silverliners. The bridge itself, to be expected, gave up all the others.