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Source: Flickr/24736216@N07

Source: Flickr/24736216@N07

Several elected officials from both sides of the bridge say they are boycotting today’s 50th anniversary celebration for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, due to the MTA’s proposed fare hike, which would raise the bridge’s cash toll to $16.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo are among those who said they won’t attend stating, “there is nothing to celebrate until our city’s commuters can finally receive the Verrazano toll relief that they deserve.”

Also boycotting the event are Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, Senator Marty Golden, and Deputy Leader Councilman Vincent Gentile. 

The MTA released this statement in response:

The MTA is disappointed that several elected officials have chosen not to attend the celebration for the 50th anniversary of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the engineering and architectural marvel that for the first time united all of New York City’s five boroughs for all drivers across America’s longest vehicular suspension bridge.

The round-trip toll at the Verrazano is exactly the same as the round-trip toll to cross all major MTA Bridges and Tunnels crossings, and the proposed 4 percent increase is applied exactly the same across all those crossings.

Councilman Gentile is also upset that there will be no commemoratory events in Bay Ridge, saying the MTA has rebuffed all of his suggestions to include the southwest Brooklyn neighborhood.

One of Gentile’s suggestions was to eliminate the bridge toll for the bridge’s anniversary, or at least reduce it to 50 cents, which was the fee the day the bridge opened.

“The MTA completely ignored Bay Ridge in this historic half-century celebration of a bridge we share with Staten Island,” Gentile said. “I found that to be ill-advised and unacceptable, especially in light of the fact that we were denied a celebratory procession across the bridge as was done for the 25th Anniversary.”

A spokesperson for the MTA said there will be a Verrazano Bridge exhibit in Brooklyn at the Transit Museum, cannons will be fired today from the Brooklyn side, and two groups of schoolchildren from Brooklyn participated in art and photography projects for the event.

verrazano-narrows bridge

Opened on November 21, 1964, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge celebrates its 50th anniversary this week, so we’re honoring the occasion by looking at some of the statistics, quirks, and interesting bits of info that make up the massive crossing’s history. From parachuting off its tower, to a cameo in Saturday Night Fever, to nearly 22 dozen light bulbs, here are 25 things you may not have know about the bridge.

1. It could have been a tunnel, instead. The original discussion for crossing the Narrows began in 1888 — but that was for a tunnel. After a bridge was proposed and the design nixed, they went back to the tunnel idea, and actually began digging. The abandoned tunnels, which only went 150 feet but still remain, were nicknamed “Hylan’s Holes” after then-Mayor John F. Hylan, who championed the failed project. It went back and forth between tunnel/bridge until talk about a bridge, under the recommendation of Robert Moses, became serious in 1946.

2. It was built in five years. It took 16 years to build the Brooklyn Bridge (completed 81 years before the Verrazano), and one year and 45 days to build the Empire State Building (completed 33 years before the Verrazano).

3. It weighs 1,265,000 tons, making it the world’s heaviest bridge at the time it opened.

4. The cost to build the bridge, in 1964 dollars, was $320 million — which would be around $2.45 billion today.

Verrazano Bridge 1960 Brooklyn

Source: Matthew Proujansky via Wikimedia Commons

5. About 7,000 people were displaced in Bay Ridge to make room for the bridge, including dentist Henry Amen, whose office was leveled, but who found a new one nearby — he is still practicing there today at age 88.

6. The length of its central span, which made it the longest suspension bridge in the world when it opened, is 4,260 feet, the equivalent of just over 14 football fields. It lost that title in 1981, and is currently the eleventh longest in the world; but it’s still the longest in the United States.

7. About 12,000 men worked on its construction, and three men died in falls. Workers walked off the job for four days, demanding safety nets, which they got, and which, afterward, caught and saved three more workers who also fell. None of the workers were invited to the opening; instead they attended a mass for the three victims.

8. Nobody is buried in the structure’s foundation, like they claim in Saturday Night Fever. In the film, the bridge symbolizes freedom and a better life…in Staten Island. The film was released 20 years after the groundbreaking of the bridge — that year, 1959, the population of Staten Island was 220,000; by 1980, it was 352,000, so Tony wasn’t alone in these thoughts.

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Source: katerha via flickr

Source: katerha via flickr

The first City Council hearing on a proposed mandatory fee for plastic bags at grocery stores and supermarkets took place yesterday, and it’s already proving to be one of the most divisive issues to come before the usually lockstep Council body.

Capital New York reports:

The bill, Intro. 209, is being championed by Council members Brad Lander of Brooklyn and Margaret Chin of Manhattan and would impose the fee on all plastic and paper bags issued by grocery stores, bodegas, liquor stores and the like in city limits. The intent is to cut back on the estimated 100,000 tons of plastic bags that find their way to the rivers, streets and trees in the city and encourage New Yorkers to use reusable shopping bags. Plastic bags constitute 2 percent of the city’s waste stream.

… Supporters maintained the 10 cents does not constitute a tax as no money would go to government coffers. Store owners would keep the 10 cents on each bag.

That, of course, hasn’t stopped opponents from describing it as a tax. One of the most vocal opponents so far has been Councilman David Greenfield.

The Daily News reports:

“Quite frankly, I’m ashamed to sit here today and talk about actually raising taxes on New Yorkers,” said Councilman David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn), who said he buys 30 bags of groceries for his family every Thursday night. “Now I’m going to have to pay three bucks extra a week.”

While proponents like Lander and Chin, who represent some of the city’s tonier districts, argue that such fees have successfully reduced the use of plastic bags in cities including Washington D.C., other elected officials say that it would unfairly hurt low-income families.

Councilman Chaim Deutsch is instead proposing a “recycling education campaign” to urge New York City residents to scale back on the roughly 9.37 billion disposable bags used in the five boroughs every year, most of which ends up in landfills.

“While our environmental goal should be to enhance programs which encourage recycling, the absolute wrong way to accomplish this worthwhile objective is by implementing a tax on plastic or paper bags,” said Deutsch in a statement. “I would rather support a recycling education campaign than support a tax, imposing an unfair financial burden on so many.”

Deutsch noted that though the bill’s provisions exempt food stamp recipients, not all of the city’s cash-strapped residents are on food stamps.

The de Blasio administration and Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito have not taken a position on the bill.

Source: Instagram/repdesign1946

Source: Instagram/repdesign1946

A shoemaker’s workspace in sepia. Located at 2810 Harway Avenue.

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Source: Krokodyl via Wikimedia Commons

Source: Krokodyl via Wikimedia Commons

A team of scam artists is targeting elderly Asian women in Bensonhurst and Bath Beach, police warned at the 62nd Precinct’s Community Council meeting yesterday.

On November 5, three woman approached a 74-year-old woman at a restaurant on 86th street and 24th Avenue and offered to bless her money and valuables to rid them of evil spirits, making off with $35,000 in cash as well as her jewelry, cops said. This incident matched a pattern of burglaries that occurred in 2013.

The Cantonese-speaking thieves would approach their victims, strike up a friendly conversation, and then warn them of bad fortune coming their way, cops said. The scam artists would tell their victims that the only way to rid themselves of the curse was to have their jewelry and money “blessed.” Victims would be told to go home and deposit all their valuable in a special bag, which would be handed over to the crooks and later returned filled with water bottles, newspapers, or food. Victims were warned not to open the bag for two weeks and by that time, the con artists were long gone.

Earlier this year, we reported that the Asian community in Bensonhurst was being disproportionately targeted by crime, with Asians accounting for 19 out of 20 burglary victims in the area.

If you or someone you know is approached by a person offering to bless your valuables, call the 62nd Precinct immediately (718) 236-2611.

Source: Flickr/haagenjerrys

Source: Flickr/haagenjerrys

Once again, the MTA has announced plans to raise fares and tolls – this time by 2 percent a year for the next two years. The 30-day MetroCard will definitely jump from $112 to $116.50, but the MTA is deliberating on whether to raise the price of the single ride MetroCard to $2.75, or keep it the same, effectively eliminating the bonus on the 30-day card.

Here’s a chart via Gothamist:

111714chart1

As you can see, both options kind of suck.

Fares on the LIRR and Metro-North will also see varying increases, as will bridge tolls – including the dreaded Verrazano-Narrows Bridge toll, which may jump a whole dollar. You can read more about that on the MTA website. The MTA plans to make a decision in March after hearing from commuters next month.

If you’d like to tell the MTA to take their fare hikes and shove it, be at the Walt Whitman Theater at Brooklyn College, 2900 Campus Road (near the Flatbush junction), on Thursday, December 11. Registration is open from 5pm to 9pm. The hearing begins at 6pm.

Comments can also be submitted online through the MTA website, or by letter to MTA Government Affairs, 347 Madison Ave., New York, 10017.

dave-frieder-verrazano

This week, a tourist was arrested for climbing the Brooklyn Bridge illegally. But not everyone who’s scaled a bridge in New York City has been busted for it — just ask Dave Frieder, the man who climbed and photographed every one of the city’s bridges from the top.

With the 50th anniversary of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge coming up on November 21, I asked Dave to send us a few of his favorite photos of the longest suspension bridge in the United States and share his story.

Verrazano-b-and-w

Frieder, who was born in Queens and raised New Jersey, became interested in photography at seven years old, when his parents bought him his first Kodak Brownie camera. As an adult, Frieder moved to New York where he serviced and installed x-ray equipment for a living, but he kept taking photos as a hobby.

Then, one day, a photographer who was mentoring Frieder suggested he find a subject that he was passionate about. Inspired by a breathtaking photo from the top of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Frieder set about climbing and photographing every bridge in New York. To gain access to the bridges, Frieder reached out to city officials — and his persistence paid off.

“After all the begging, the pleading, the phone calls, the letters, I had eight years of unprecedented access to all the bridges in the city,” Frieder says.

Unfortunately, all that came to an end on September 11, 2001, when New York stepped up its security measures.

verrazano arch

Here’s how Frieder describes climbing the Verrazano:

Wearing a hard hat, gloves, and harness, Frieder would take one of the Verrazano’s four elevators to the top of the arch.

Usually the sound of the elevator upset the peregrine falcons that nest in the cables, and they immediately started squawking and pecking with razor sharp beaks at the elevator walls.

“They just sit there and squawk at you, but theres nothing they can do,” Frieder says. “Of course the bridge wasn’t designed for them, but they think it is.”

Verrazano Narrows

Once he managed to fend off the falcons, Frieder would scale two long rung ladders to get onto the bridge’s cables.

Walking along the cables — which measure three feet in diameter — Frieder would then take photos of the bridge from every angle.

VERRAZZANO-water

The view from the top is “magnificent,” says Frieder.

“One thing I will never do is go digital,” he adds. “It doesn’t convey what I see and feel when I take a photograph.”

Verrazanno-top

Frieder plans to self-publish a coffee table book with his photographs of New York’s bridges by next year.

All photos courtesy of Dave Frieder, used with permission.

Courtesy of CM Treyer

Courtesy of CM Treyger’s office

Our elected officials are taking on 86th Street’s chronic trash problem.

Councilmen Mark Treyger and Vincent Gentile were joined by Assemblyman Bill Colton as they announced funding for a major cleanup of 86th Street between Stillwell Avenue and 18th Avenue on Friday, November 14. The politicians were also joined by the Department of Sanitation, the Doe Fund, and several other community organizations.

“One of the most important aspects of any thriving neighborhood is a clean, welcoming and inviting commercial area that is a positive reflection on our community,” Treyger said in a statement. “This funding represents a great partnership between the city, the Sanitation Department, the Doe Fund, local organizations and merchants as we work towards cleaner and litter-free streets across my entire district.”

Treyger allocated $28,800 for the Department of Sanitation to fund additional workers and trash pick up along 86th Street – with an extra focus on intersections that are hotspots for litter, such as Bay Parkway, 20th Avenue, 23rd Avenue, and 25th Avenue. An extra $6,540 will go towards 12 new high-end litter baskets for 86th Street. In addition, the Doe Fund has received $8,000 from Treyger, and $8,000 from Gentile for three trainees to clean 18th Avenue between 68th Street and 86th Street twice a week.

Gentile, who funded a similar initiative for Bay Ridge in September, said he was happy to lend his support.

“Clean streets are a source of great community pride. Everyone deserves a clean and safe place to live and work. Indeed, the backbone of our neighborhoods are the mom and pop shops that line our main thoroughfares. These folks need and deserve all of our support, every day,” said Gentile in a statement.

For the southern portion of the district, the Alliance for Coney Island received $15,000 to expand its ongoing cleanup program to include the Mermaid Avenue and to extend through the fall and spring. In addition, the Coney Island Beautification Project was allocated $10,287 towards its efforts to make the area from Stillwell Avenue to West 37th Street more attractive.

Igor Vaysberg, a staffer for CM Treyger, listens to ideas from community members at an October 20. Photo by Aliza Chasan

Staffer Igor Vaysberg listens to ideas from community members at an assembly on October 20. (Photo by Aliza Chasan)

By Aliza Chasan

When the small group of community members was asked if they were happy with the way the government spends their money, the room was silent. Hands shot up moments later when residents were asked what changes they wanted to see in their communities.

On November 10, Councilman Mark Treyger wrapped up the last of three community assemblies as part of District 47’s progressive participatory budgeting [PB] initiative. Treyger has allocated $1 million of discretionary funds for residents’ ideas. District 47 – which includes Gravesend, Bensonhurst, Sea Gate and Coney Island – is among 24 of the city’s 51 districts to sign up for PB.

At the meetings, residents filled yellow posters with Sharpie-scrawled ideas. They want street repairs, traffic cameras, bus and crosswalk countdown clocks, covered trash baskets, Wi-Fi and charging stations for parks, and bus shelters. Schools need technology upgrades, air conditioning, speed bumps, and stop signs.

“This exercise is really about empowering residents, so that residents have a direct say on how their tax dollars are at work,” says Treyger, who cites his experience as a high school teacher as his motivation for joining PB. “Equally as important, is that it’s been a great learning tool for the public to learn about the city budget process.”

The next step is for a selected group of volunteers to act as budget delegates, developing pitches into fleshed out plans and deciding which are financially feasible. Each plan will cost at least $35,000 and no more than $1 million – more expensive than replacing a stop sign, but less than building a new park from scratch. Finally, in April, constituents will vote on their favorite project.

“I want to make life easier for people in the neighborhood,” said Robert Whittaker, 40, a volunteer budget delegate. “This is the best way to do that – come here and get involved in the process.”

Another assembly goer, Maria di Graziano, 47, told us her neighborhood has been working toward PB for some time. Treyger, she said, is eager to help, which is a change from the past.

“Now it’s the community that has to get used to being present and involved and voicing their concerns,” she said.

Treyger says the goal of PB is to involve underrepresented voices in the democratic process, such as immigrants, the elderly, residents in public housing, and high school students.

Those efforts include translating flyers for the assemblies into many languages, reaching out to community organizations, and having community organizers like PBNYC and Community Voices Heard spread the word by canvassing door-to-door. Residents as young as 14 are invited to pitch ideas. To vote, community members must be 16 and have some relationship to the neighborhood, whether through work, school, or residency.

“There’s no monopoly on good ideas,” says Treyger.

To find out how you can get involved in PB, see the PBNYC website.

[With additional reporting by Rachel Silberstein]

subway alerts

Source: Flickr/jpmartineau

The uptown D train is running local, the N line is split in two, and R train service ends early in Manhattan and Queens at night. Details via the MTA:

D LINE

Manhattan-bound D trains run local from 36th Street to DeKalb

Beginning 8:30pm, Mon to Thu, Nov 17 – 20

Please allow additional travel time.

F LINE

There are no service changes at this time.

N LINE

Manhattan-bound N trains run local from 59th St, Brooklyn to Dekalb Ave

Beginning 8:30pm, Mon to Thu, Nov 17 – 20

Please allow additional travel time.

No N trains in Manhattan – N trains run in Queens and Brooklyn only.

10pm to 5am, Mon to Fri, Nov 17 – 21

N service operates in two sections:
1. Between Ditmars Blvd and Queensboro Plaza.
2. Between Coney Island and Court St R station.
Travel alternatives:
• Take the 2, 4, D, F, and Q between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

R LINE

R service ends early in Manhattan and Queens

10pm to 5am, Mon to Fri, Nov 17 – 21

R service operates in Brooklyn between 95 St and 36 St. More info here.

These schedules will occasionally change, so check MTA.info for the latest updates.

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