Community, history forum: preserve pieces of existing City Island Bridge

The East Bronx History Forum has joined a group advocating for saving pieces of the now-closed City Island Bridge dating back to 1901 for history and posterity. NYC DOT said that the tops of the old bridge and plaques would be saved.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

Historical preservationists on and off City Island are interested in preserving some artifacts from the island’s soon-to-be demolished bridge.

The East Bronx History Forum and residents on City Island are advocating for the city to save pieces of City Island’s once iconic green bridge dating to the turn of the 20th Century.

A new crossing is about to be constructed to replace the old one.

The NYC Department of Transportation, which received high marks from the community for working with local leaders on an acceptable design, appear supportive in securing the historical pieces.

Richard Vitacco, EBHF president, said that the organization is eyeing the four finials, or pinnacle caps from the top of the structure, as well as six ‘spanners’, rods measuring a foot and a half long, and three gears from the pedestal of the bridge, used decades ago when the bridge actually opened to allow boats to pass through.

“It is just an important historical artifact – artifacts tell stories and the history of a people and a community,” said Vitacco, when asked about why he would like to see some of the old span preserved, adding “We are a borough of stories and the City Island Bridge is part of that story.”

EBHF sent a letter to DOT in October 2015 requesting to display these materials at the Huntington Free Library and Reading Room in Westchester Square, where the organization meets monthly.

Vitacco said that the organization had not heard back as of press time.

From the City Island community’s perspective, there is also a large amount of nostalgia and interest in preserving pieces of the closed circa 1901 City Island Bridge, said John Doyle, City Island Civic Association.

A joint City Island community and DOT bridge design group, that has not meet in about a year, had been discussing how to save pieces of the old bridge, and is likely to resume talks along these lines when it meets again, Doyle said.

“They are supposed to come back to us with some sort of preservation plan,” he said.

“We do want to preserve these pieces of our history.” he added.

A DOT spokeswoman stated that the city’s contract for bridge replacement requires the removal and storage of the four pinnacles and any plaques on the existing bridge.

“Every effort will be made by the contractor to remove these items with all due care and store them until the end of the contract,” a DOT spokeswoman stated.

“Use of these materials would be under the direction of a loan agreement between a qualified not-for-profit and the City of New York,” she said

Vitacco believes preservation is a worthy cause in the case of the bridge.

“Anything over 100 years old has stood the test of numerous generations and is worthy of preserving,” he said, adding “There is a huge amount of metal there. We are asking for maybe a tenth of one percent.”

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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