For many New York City bridges, the past 40 years have not been the best of times. In 1973, a portion of the elevated West Side Highway collapsed in Manhattan. In 1981, a cable snapped on the Brooklyn Bridge, killing a tourist. In 1986, most of the city's Dept. of Transportation staffers were fired for alleged corruption and ties to the mob. "The secondary scandal was the fact that we weren't taking care of our bridges," says Samuel Schwartz, who became the deputy city DOT commissioner that year. "We were reporting they were just fine when, in fact, they were in desperate shape."