By Mark Hallum
The Kosciuszko Bridge, once viewed as a decaying blemish on the Brooklyn-Queens skyline, has been replaced with a sleek and modern structure directly adjacent to the old one that stood for over half a century.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and city officials from both boroughs took part in a ribbon-cutting April 27 to dedicate the opening of the bridge to traffic.
Cuomo, a lover of classic cars, cruised into the celebration behind the wheel of a ’32 Packard owned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who also served as governor of New York. It was the first time the car had been driven in decades.
The $55 million project will keep the regional economy going while making improvements to the crossing, such as an increased daily capacity to support the approximately 100,000 cars that use the bridge each day.
The towers on the new bridge rival the Statue of Liberty at 180 feet.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz expressed gratitude to Cuomo, a native of Queens, by claiming that he was not one to overlook the borough in terms of its needs or when seeking input.
“Every step of the way, the community has been involved in this project and our concerns have been taken into account, step-by-step,” Katz said.
Growing up in Queens, Cuomo became familiar with the old bridge, built in the 1950s, in a peculiar way. The governor said the first time he had ever heard his father, Mario, use expletives was when crossing the old bridge.
“I believe that Queens and Brooklyn deserve a beautiful bridge and a bridge that graces the Queens and Brooklyn skyline, and that’s exactly what this bridge is going to do,” Cuomo said.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a statement praising the effort to replace old infrastructure and explaining how federal investment made it possible, taking explicit aim at the Trump administration for the recently blocked executive order to withhold funds to sanctuary cities.
“The bottom line is that the achievement we are touting today, one that will help keep our regional and national economy buzzing, is exactly the kind of critical construction project that would still be sitting on the shelf without federal investment,” Schumer said. “The Kosciuszko bridge is a prime example of what can be accomplished with direct and substantial federal investment in infrastructure, and the Senate Democrats’ infrastructure plan that we sent to the president over three months ago would energize thousands more projects like this to be built across the United States of America, creating 15 million new jobs.”
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) touted her part in securing $670 million in federal funds for the new bridge, which constituted approximately 85 percent of the total price-tag.
“After years of planning and construction, I am thrilled that this new, state-of-the-art span will finally be open for public use,” Maloney said. “With this new bridge, we continue New York’s tradition of bold infrastructure projects that move our economy forward. The 78-year old bridge was a crumbling, dangerous eyesore, widely regarded as the worst bridge in the state. Now construction on the first phase is complete, and when it is all said and done, the new Kosciuszko Bridge will have a transformative impact for drivers and residents alike.”
Cuomo incited anger among the FDNY community for opting out of attending the funeral for Firefighter William Tolley, scheduled around the same time last Thursday. The 14-year FDNY veteran perished fighting a fire in Glendale on April 20, and while Mayor Bill de Blasio attended the services in Bethpage, L.I., Cuomo continued on with the ribbon-cutting of the bridge.
The bridge was named for Polish American Revolutionary War hero Tadeusz Kosciuszko and in honor of the Polish community in nearby Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall