“Let us take this opportunity to recommit ourselves to the bond that this bridge has built,” declared Councilmember Vincent Gentile at John J. Carty Park on Fort Hamilton Parkway in the shadow of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on December 3, shortly before the unveiling of the park’s new replica Giovanni da Verrazzano sculpture.
The original sculpture, depicting the Italian explorer and bridge namesake, had been vandalized and stolen from the park’s memorial flagstaff in the 1980s.
With the assistance of the New York City Parks Department, however, the sculpture was resurrected and proudly put on display along with four rusticated stones from Chianti, Italy (where Verrazzano was born).
Speaking before a crowd including Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann, Assemblymembers Alec Brook-Krasny and Nicole Malliotakis, and State Senator Marty Golden, Gentile asserted, “Since that time [the sculpture’s theft in 1982], Bay Ridgeites have been denied the sight and honor of having the great Giovanni da Verrazzano’s profile at the base of this flagstaff, and at the Brooklyn end of his bridge. No more, as of today!”
The ceremony, taking place on a frigid morning, began with a presentation by the Fort Hamilton High School Junior ROTC program, followed by versions of the American and Italian National Anthems sung by Brooklyn’s Italian Opera Company.
Besides celebrating the return of the sculpture, speakers also took the opportunity to reference the MTA’s contentious new plans to increase fares and tolls in 2014 (including a proposed $16 toll on the Verrazano). The subject received attention across bipartisan lines — Brook-Krasny, a Democrat, and Malliotakis, a Republican, each leveled criticism at the MTA during their speeches.
“Usually when Vincent and Marty and Alec and I are standing in front of the bridge, we’re complaining about the ridiculously high tolls and the mismanagement of the MTA, so I’m happy to be here for a good and festive occasion,” Malliotakis said.