Bridge Cold-War Bomb Shelter
March 22, 2006
Last week, beneath New York's busy Brooklyn Bridge, city inspectors uncovered artifacts of modern American history -- provisions left in a shelter harkening back to fears of nuclear attack in the days of the Cold War.
City Department of Transportation employees were conducting maintenance on the structure when they found the cache on the top floor of a three-floor space inside the bridge's base, agency spokeswoman Kay Salin said.
The stockpile included empty water drums, boxes of sealed blankets, shock-prevention medical supplies and an estimated 350,000 cracker biscuits, as well as clothes and remnants of homeless people who lived there until they were evicted when the structure was sealed in 1994.
Officials believe it may be one of many nuclear fallout shelters created around America during the 1950s that were stockpiled with survival supplies.
"Here we have this wonderful cache of information," New York transport commissioner Iris Weinshall said , standing in the dark, dank room pointing to the sealed boxes. "This is modern American history."
Boxes of blankets were marked "For Use Only After Enemy Attack," while the sealed biscuit tins read "Civil Defense All Purpose Survival Crackers". Some of the items were stamped with two especially significant years in cold-war history: 1957, when the Soviets launched the Sputnik satellite, and 1962, when the Cuban missile crisis seemed to bring the world to the precipice of nuclear destruction.
"People were worried, they thought we were going to go to nuclear war when there was a conflict with Russia," Weinshall said. "Today, we are worried about terrorist attacks, we are not worried about nuclear attacks. It's a whole different thing."
Other supplies found included a box containing tags to show people's name, address, next of kin and type of first aid they needed.
Joseph Vaccaro, a carpentry supervisor, who has been conducting inspections for the city's bridge department for 17 years, was on hand when the supplies were discovered.
ďIíve never found anything as significant as this,Ē Vaccaro, said while standing in the attic-like room amid the stockpile.
Weinshall said she has contacted the Civil Defense Museum and the cityís Department of Health and Mental Hygiene about taking the items, which include syringes and Dextran, an intravenous drug.
The Office of Civil Defense, a unit of the Pentagon that coordinated domestic preparedness in the early 1960ís, probably put the supplies there, Weinshall said.
Itís also possible a city agency was responsible for the stash, first reported by The New York Times.
Weinshall said right now thereís no way to tell whether the supplies were intended to be used at the bridge in case of an attack or if the bridge was only a storage space.