On This Day

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Verrazano Bridge
Jet Lowe/Library of Congress
View of Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from Brooklyn looking southwest toward Staten Island.

On This Day: Verrazano Narrows Bridge Opened

November 21, 2011 05:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On Nov. 21, 1964, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge connecting Staten Island and Brooklyn opened, surpassing San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge as the world’s largest suspension bridge.

Construction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was built to connect Staten Island and Brooklyn, creating the first crossing between Staten Island and the rest of New York City. Furthermore, it provided a crucial link for drivers traveling from Long Island to New Jersey and the mid-Atlantic states, and vice versa.

The idea for a bridge or tunnel connecting Staten Island and Brooklyn dated back to 1888, according to “The Great Bridge” by Edward M. Young and Lili Rethi. In the 1940s, Robert Moses, chair of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, began planning for the bridge. Construction began in 1959 and was completed five years later at a cost of $320.1 million.

At the time of its completion, the bridge became the largest suspension bridge in the world, featuring a 4,260-foot-center span between two 693-foot towers. The height and distance between the towers forced engineers to account for the curvature of the Earth when building them; the towers are angled slightly away from each other.

A large ceremony was held for the opening of the upper deck of the two-deck bridge, attracting dignitaries including Mayor Robert Wagner, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and Moses. The New York Times wrote of the day, “The sun shone, the sky was cloudless; bands played, cannons echoed up and down the harbor, flags waved, and thousands of motorists yesterday became part of the first—and perhaps only—blissful traffic jam on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.”

The Verrazano Bridge remains the longest suspension bridge in the United States, though it has been surpassed by seven bridges worldwide. It is perhaps most famous as the starting point of the New York City Marathon.

Biography: Giovanni da Verrazzano

The Verrazano Bridge was named after Giovanni da Verrazzano, an Italian explorer who is believed to be the first European to sail into New York Harbor.

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