There were no bells, whistles or balloons, but on Tuesday, January 11, the Throgs Neck Bridge quietly celebrated its 50th birthday.
On January 11, 1961, city and MTA officials cut the ribbon on the vast steel suspension bridge, which connects the Bronx to Queens and Long Island. The 50th anniversary passed last week without a ceremony, and was a surprise to many Bronx residents.
“I knew it was this year, but it kind of surprised me it was today,” said Locust Point Civic Association vice-president Chrys Napolitano. “Historically it’s had a tremendous impact on our community, both good and bad. There’s been some environmental impacts with all the traffic. But good or bad, that’s progress.”
Aside from the great debate about whether Throggs Neck should contain one “g” or two, the bridge has had two major affects on the Bronx, said Bronx historian Lloyd Ultan.
“As it was under construction, the approach roads cut wide swaths through various neighborhoods leading to the bridge. Thus it tended to divide neighborhoods that were once united,” he said. “It also increased development of the area around Throggs Neck, and the areas leading to the bridge because it increased access at a time when there were more cars traveling between the Bronx, east Queens and Long Island.”
The Throgs Neck Bridge was the first project to be completed out of several that were first proposed in a 1955 study that was conducted by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority – which is now the MTA bridge and Tunnels. The study addressed the growing issue of traffic in the city, and included recommendations to build the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, add a lower level to the George Washington Bridge and build several new expressways.
Crews broke ground on the Throgs Neck Bridge on October 22, 1957.
Opening day was much more celebratory than the 50th anniversary. Robert Moses, chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority; then-Mayor Robert Wagner; Borough President James Lyons, and Queens Borough President John Clancy cut the ribbon on the bridge at the Bronx toll plaza, before speeding across the newly completed structure to dedicate the first structure built for the World’s Fair at Flushing Meadow Park.
“We’re proud to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Throgs Neck, which plays an integral role daily in keeping traffic moving through this vital transportation corridor linking New York City with Long Island and New York’s northern counties,” MTA Bridges and Tunnels president Jim Ferrara said.
The bridge has a center span that is 1,800-feet long and two side spans that are 555 feet each. There is a 4,100-foot roadway that connects the Cross Island Parkway and Clearview Expressway to Queens and Long Island, as well as a 6,400-foot roadway that passes over the Throgs Neck peninsula and Long Island Sound connecting the Cross Bronx and Throgs Neck expressways. The structure towers 36- feet above the water.
During its first full year of operation, 23 million vehicles crossed the bridge. Nearly 40 million vehicles crossed the bridge in 2010.
For Lynn Gerbino, who commutes over the bridge to Queens daily for work, the bridge has been great.
“It’s a fantastic way to get from here to there. Without the bridge it would take about two hours, so it really makes a difference,” she said. “I’m happy that it is around. I still want it to be two “g’s”, rather than one, but that’s okay.”