BY JON CRONIN
The $555 million first span of the reconstructed Kosciuszko Bridge debuted with pomp and circumstance last Thursday as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and leaders from two boroughs celebrated the opening of the first new bridge in the five boroughs in more than a half-century.
Two parades representing the two boroughs—Queens and Brooklyn— that the bridge adjoins met in the middle and Cuomo made his entrance by driving President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1932 Packard onto the bridge from the Queens side.
“This is a governor who never has forgotten where he comes from in the city of New York,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said, lauding Cuomo for the construction of the first bridge in the city since the 1964 opening of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.
Cuomo said that the old Kosciuszko had become obsolete since it was originally designed for 10,000 cars and now serves more than 180,000 per day.
“I’m a native Queens boy, born and raised, and my mother is a native Brooklyn girl, so I spent my childhood going back and forth across this bridge,” the governor said. “The first time I heard my father use expletives was on this bridge.”
Cuomo said that he arrived at the ceremony in FDR’s Packard because the president had a “tremendous positive energy” and Cuomo wanted to bring a similar vibe to the opening of the new bridge.
“[He] was all about what ‘we’ can do,” Cuomo said of Roosevelt. “He never took ‘no’ for an answer.”
State Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D-Brooklyn) said that he was pleased to see the bridge open on time and added that the span had become a “sore spot” for its two neighboring boroughs and was frequently overwhelmed with traffic. Neighbors, he among them, had complained about noise and air pollution.
Cuomo said that the city has been long overdue for new infrastructure to support its growing population. He touted the success of the Second Avenue subway’s timely completion, as well as the beginning of renovations at LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports.
“For too long, we have been relying on the legacy of our grandparents,” Cuomo said.
At the ceremony, Maciej Golubiewski, the Polish consul general in New York, said that Polish military leader Tadeusz Kosciuszko, who fought in the American Revolutionary War, was a hero and that the 1940 renaming of the Meeker Avenue Bridge to the Kosciuszko Bridge was a source of pride for the Polish people.
Upon his death, Kosciuszko donated his American estate to be sold to buy the freedom of African American slaves. Although his will was never carried out, its legacy eventually led to the creation of an education institute for African Americans in Newark, Golubiewski said.
The Kosciuszko is the first cable-stayed bridge built in New York and the first bridge in the city to be illuminated with LED lights at night. Cuomo noted that all city bridges will soon be illuminated.
The old section of the Kosciuszko will be imploded in July and a new section of the bridge to replace it is scheduled to be completed by 2021.
Reach Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125. firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin