Brooklyn, NY Brooklyn Bridge Disaster, May 1883

Brooklyn Bridge in 1899

"No, sir: I do not. As I said, it is one of those things which baffles human prescience. A crowd might gather in a prairie and do harm. There was ample space for the one that did the damage yesterday, but the trouble was that the people became panic struck. They dreaded a danger of some sort - they could not tell from that point, and only made one great rush to get from the spot in which they were. A little common sense would have prevented the entire occurrence. There always has been a tendency to halt at these steps, and this is why we are planning to erect the rails so as to prevent the two streams from coming in conflict. There is also a tendency to crush where the cables dip below the walk and are railed off. There will be a center rail erected at this point also, and the greatest care will be used in future to prevent the clashing of opposite streams of people."

"I think," said Mayor LOW, to an Eagle reporter this morning, "that the most palpable lesson of the affair is the need of more police. It is impossible, of course, to say whether the presence of a larger police force at the stairs would have prevented the panic and the accident, but it is very clean to my mind that for the ordinary conditions that prevail on the bridge a much larger force than has been employed is needed there. The accident proves, of course, that the footway is not competent by itself to transport the people that want to cross, and it is unfortunate that it should have been so severely tested apart from the railway system which was intended to work with it. It is curious to think that more people probably were injured in that accident upon a bridge across which they could walk than have lost their lives and been hurt on all our ferries in the last twenty years."

MR. JAMES S. T. STRANAHAN, one of the trustees, said: "It was believed that the steps on either approach to the towers would be plenty wide enough. They are of greater width than the sidewalks on Broadway, and every one knows what crowds of people traverse them. The only reason why the accident occurred that I can give is because the people became panic struck. It is unfortunate that it happened upon the bridge, but if the same crowd had been confined upon any of our thoroughfares, and had become uncontrollable through fear, lives would have been lost also. When the railroad was planned it was found necessary to utilize the center portion of the bridge for the promenade; it was impossible to run the cars around the center tower, and it was therefore decided to place the tracks through the arches near the tower.

Then this necessitated that the promenade at the tower should pass over the railroad. Instead of putting all the steps at the towers it was thought better to place them at the anchorage. The promenade might have been continued at the same height to the ends of the bridge, but then there would have had to have been even more steps, as the height would have been greater. The trustees of the bridge have considered the matter of travel and have largely trusted to the cars relieving the traffic on the promenade, so that it would render the repetition of another such occurrence almost an impossibility. The stairs are well built and were made as wide as it was possible for them to be constructed."

"Could more space for pedestrians be given, MR. STRANAHAN?"
"Well, if we find that the cars do not relieve the promenade as we consider they ought to brackets will be placed at the edge of the roadways, and a pathway will thus be gained."
"Do you think you have sufficient police on the bridge?'
"Yes, sir. There are plenty to keep order and do all the duty that is necessary to be performed."

Brooklyn Eagle New York 1883-05-31