Petition Aims To Reclaim Missing Z In Verrazano-Narrow Bridge

By Wesley Eng
Photo by Wesley Eng

When did we drop the Z in Verrazano-Narrows Bridge?

As reported in our fact sheet about the Brooklyn-Staten Island connector, the 52-year-old bridge was named for Giovanni da Verrazzano, the Italian explorer credited as the first European to discover the New York Bay.

At the time, some Italians advocated for spelling Verrazzano with two Zs, but apparently then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller preferred the single Z — which was seen by some as the “American” spelling. Today, many Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights businesses memorialize Verrazzanno in their names using the spelling with the single Z.

Well, a new petition, launched by Dyker Heights resident Robert Nash (tracked down by the Brooklyn Paper), aims to change that. The open letter calls for MTA Bridges and Tunnels to replace all signs that do not spell Verrazzano correctly and to build a statue near the bridge honoring the explorer.

Nash writes:

There was great opposition to naming the bridge after an Italian explorer! In the end, they spelled his name wrong. Since its inception, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge has been spelled wrong. It is time that the bridge is renamed with the correct spelling of the explorer’s name!
Please sign this petition. MTA Bridges and Tunnels is responsible for the maintenance of the bridge. All signs that do not spell Verrazzano correctly need to be replaced. In edition, a statue should be built near the bridge in honor of the explorer! Italian-Americans have a right to be present in the history of the United States. All to often, people push Italians and Italian-Americans to the side! Sign this petition; let’s unite as proud Italian-Americans!
Giovanni_da_Verrazano Bridge April 17
Giovanni da Verrazzano (Source: F. Allegrini via Wikimedia Commons)

There actually currently is a statue of the Italian explorer — which was re-cast at John J. Carty Park (95


Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway) in honor of the Verrazano’s 50th anniversary in November 2014  — located near the bridge’s Brooklyn entrance. The original sculpture, which was placed on the Verrazano Memorial Flagstaff in 1964, was stolen in the 1980s, according the the NYC Park Department website.

At a press conference yesterday, a reporter asked Mayor Bill de Blasio about the misspelling of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and he sarcastically replied “These are the issues of the minds of New Yorkers.”

“I need to look into that as a proud Italian. I need to go back and do my research. I will get a task force and get back to you,” the mayor said.

Meanwhile, AM New York reports that an MTA board member has jumped on board with Nash’s petition:

MTA board member Allen Cappelli said it’s “idiotic” that the MTA hasn’t corrected the spelling of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to match its namesake, Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano.
“It’s just disrespectful,” said Cappelli, a native Staten Islander and chairman of the Bridges and Tunnels Committee. “They should spell the guy’s name right.”
Cappelli is in accord with a new online petition that calls for the MTA to add a “z” to the Verrazano Bridge to reflect the true spelling of “Verrazzano,” who is credited as the first navigator to explore New York Bay.

Clearly Nash and Cappelli are not alone in their sentiment, as the petition has garnered more than 250 signatures since June 1. What do you think of the petition? Does Nash have a point?

Updated [2:56pm] with comments from Mayor Bill de Blasio and Allen Cappelli.


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