Archive for the ‘Bay Ridge’ Category

TheBridgeThis is the revised edition of The Bridge: The Building of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge by Gay Talese, honoring the 50th anniversary of the opening of the bridge on November 21, 1964. The original book was published in 1964. As Mr. Talese says in his introduction, the book is more a testament to the men who built the bridge than it is a history of the bridge.

In the beginning, Talese talks about the 800 buildings destroyed and 7,000 people displaced in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn to make way for the on/off ramps to the bridge. I immediately thought of the portrait of Robert Moses painted by author Robert Caro in his book The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. In it, the reader gets the impression that Robert Moses cared about no one and nothing other than his projects. The fact that people would be uprooted and their lives totally disrupted, sometimes for the worse, cared little to him. I got this same exact feeling while reading The Bridge. But this is ancillary to the story.

The power of The Bridge are the stories of the men who built it. Generations of families worked construction on high rise towers, bridges, etc., showing no fear of heights, no fear of accidents that could main or kill a man. The pride that these men showed in their work seems unparalleled. Talese talked about a group of Canadian Indians who drove 400 miles home every Friday from Brooklyn after tossing back untold numbers of beers, and who then drove 400 miles back every Sunday to work on the bridge.

He talks about families who have seen accidents cripple or kill family members and their sons or brothers reporting back to work the next day, despite their loss. He talks about men who go from boom town to boom town in order to work on the next bridge or high rise. Quite incredible.

The photos of the bridge under construction add to the awe I have of those men who can work 70 stories up, whether over dry land or water. It’s a fearlessness that I never had.

Talese ends the book with a note that the next big projects are the renovation of the upper deck of the Verrrazano which will begin shortly and the new Tappan Zee Bridge, the construction of which began in 2014. He includes an artist’s rendering of the bridge. Although no one who worked on the Verrazano will be working on the Tappen Zee, you can rest assured that sons or grandsons of those Verrazano workers will be involved with the new Tappen Zee Bridge.

The Bridge: The Building of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was an interesting and eye-opening book and well worth the short time it will take you to read it.

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