The Verrazano Bridge marks the gateway to New York Harbor; it not only establishes a critical link in the regional highway system but a critical link between two beautiful boroughs.
Although it was opposed by many upon the announcement of its construction 50 years ago, the Verrazano has become an iconic and totemic structure beloved by many. But it did not achieve this status in the eyes of Brooklynites without great cost.
The opening of the Verrazano Bridge marked the end of the “Battle of Ages” – the people of Bay Ridge vs. bombastic urban planner Robert Moses.
Bay Ridge’s history at the time of the bridge construction was one of “destruction” – the planned demolition of hundreds of homes in order to build the roadway leading to and from this behemoth bridge.
But Robert Moses dug in and won, and in so doing forever changed the landscape of quaint Bay Ridge. So it is understandable that Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights at the time were angry even as they marveled at the majesty of the bridge.
In the ensuing 50 years, the hurt and the effects of the demolition, while still with us, have subsided, thereby allowing the pride in the bridge and its majesty to grow. And it has.
We have learned to treasure that special bond that Brooklyn has developed with Staten Island. This bridge has linked us geographically but also economically, emotionally and in a social sense. Today Brooklynites work, shop, dine and study on Staten Island, visit relatives, use services, and go to their eternal place of rest on Staten Island.
And yet today, the MTA – the entity that helped created this lifetime and beneficial bond between the two boroughs – is the same entity that threatens the continuation of that bond.
Crossing this iconic structure has become a tremendous financial burden to many. Let us not obliterate the benefits and convenience this bridge provides by sending the toll for its usage into orbit.
In addition, we on the Brooklyn side of the Verrazano Bridge were completely overlooked on this celebration. The MTA scheduled nothing here other than the firing of cannons. To commemorate this historic birthday while blatantly neglecting the neighborhoods I represent in the southwest corner of Brooklyn was simply unacceptable.
Therefore, my office, working in conjunction with the New York City Parks Department, will honor the Florentine explorer of North America for whom the bridge is named with the unveiling of the long-lost sculpture of Giovanni di Verrazano on the Verrazano Memorial Flagstaff at John J. Carty Park in Bay Ridge.
Details will be announced soon so that together, as Brooklynites, we can celebrate the iconic Verrazano Bridge and its history.
City Councilmember Vincent Gentile represents the 43rd Councilmanic District.