Happy (Belated) 47th Birthday, Verrazano Bridge!

image by Colleen Murphy

According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, yesterday marked the 47th anniversary of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge opening to automobile traffic.

On November 21, 1963 the Verrazano’s upper level began carrying people between Long Island (of which Brooklyn and Queens are both geographically part of) and Staten Island.

The bridge was named after Italian navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano – which the Eagle reminds us is spelled with two Zs – the first European to catch a glimpse of New York Harbor in 1524.

From the Eagle:

Designed by the Swiss engineer Othmar H. Ammann, the steel bridge is 4,260 feet long and was the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time of its opening. Its towers are 623 feet tall and rest on steel and concrete caissons sunk into man-made islands of sand. The anchorages are concrete wedges more than 100 feet tall set into the ground at what was Fort Lafayette in Brooklyn and Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island. There are two levels to the roadway, which is suspended from four steel-wire cables 36 inches in diameter.
Robert Moses, at the time chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, put construction of the bridge into motion and caused quite a stir in Bay Ridge when some 8,000 residents were displaced to make room for the bridge’s approaches.

The bridge’s lower level would not be completed and open to commuters until almost five years later – on June 28, 1969.

On its opening day, Moses heralded the bridge as a “triumph of simplicity and restraint.”

Since 1976, the bridge has acted as the starting point for the New York City Marathon. The bridge has also been prominently featured in several films, including Saturday Night Fever.

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