BOROUGHWIDE — On Friday, Dec. 6, traffic was backed up for miles as police closed off the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge after a 44-year-old man leapt to his death from the top level at 5:45 p.m., during rush hour. The following day, yet another individual jumped off the bridge.
Two weeks later, on Friday, Dec. 20, a 34-year-old male jumped from the bridge at around 2 p.m. and was taken to the hospital in critical condition.
Sadly, these incidents have accelerated over the years and on Monday, Dec. 23 the MTA announced that it has begun installation of 100 feet of “safety fencing” along the upper and lower roadways of the bridge, with completion of the work expected by Dec. 31.
According to a statement from the MTA, the 28,000 linear feet of high strength stainless steel mesh is capable of withstanding exposure to high winds, the marine environment and the elements.
To add to the fencing, MTA Bridges and Tunnels is anticipating awarding a design/build contract by the end of 2020 in a competitive process, with the implementation schedule part of the selection criteria.
“Safety is an essential priority at MTA Bridges and Tunnels and the installation of a safety fence on the Verrazzano will augment the current plan we have in place,” said Daniel DeCrescenzo, the acting president of MTA Bridges and Tunnels.
Besides installing the fencing, which came about in the wake of a safety study MTA Bridges and Tunnels conducted, the agency is also updating signs along the span based on suggestions by experts in the public health field using current recommendations for suicide prevention wording. Among the information included on the signs is NYC Well’s crisis hotline numbers.
MTA Bridges and Tunnels (MTA B&T) is also providing training to its workforce to help them respond appropriately should they encounter someone who gives behavioral cues that they may be emotionally disturbed and potentially suicidal.
City Councilmember Justin Brannan, a Democrat whose district includes Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst, has long been a proponent of adding the safety netting on the bridge. This past year he joined forces with Staten Island Republican Councilmember Steven Matteo, in calling on the MTA to invest in the suicide deterrent.
Brannan is glad to see that the MTA has finally taken action.
“I live not far from the bridge so when I hear the helicopters early in the morning or in the middle of the night, my heart breaks because I know what it means,” Brannan told this paper. “I am concerned that the Verrazzano Bridge is fast becoming the East Coast answer to the Golden Gate Bridge which many have called a ‘suicide magnet.’
“We must deter people from not only jumping but also coming to the Verrazzano with suicide in mind. We need to do more to make people think twice when they are about to make that split-second decision. I’m glad the MTA has finally listened to us. It should not have taken this long,” added Brannan.