A New York icon celebrated 50 years this month.
The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island, opened to traffic at 11 a.m. on Nov. 21, 1964. A group of young men waited six days to be the first to cross the bridge, crossing in a 1959 Cadillac convertible.
The bridge, designed by Othmar Ammann, measures 4,260 feet from tower to tower, which is 60 feet longer than the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and 6,690 feet in total length. The bridge’s two towers stand 693 feet tall, making them roughly the height of a 70-story building; they are the tallest structures in New York City outside of Manhattan.
“Seeing this completed work is not to forget the effort and energy and sometimes the great risks that were involved,” the Staten Island Advance quoted author Gay Talese as saying. “A bridge is like a war. And the people who build a bridge are like an army. It’s a great achievement. It’s like a victory in a war. People who contributed in any way to the completion of the bridge are part of something of everlasting value. There’s almost something religious in this. People who build something like this know that it’s going to outlive them.”
Built at a cost of $320 million ($2.455 billion in today’s dollars), the bridge is the 11th largest suspension bridge in the world. The bridge, which has two levels with six lanes per level, is named for Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, who in 1524 while serving Francis I of France became the first European to sail into what is today New York Harbor.
A proposed connection between Staten Island and Brooklyn dates to 1888 when the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad considered building a tunnel between the two boroughs.