Brooklyn celebrated the grand opening of the first of two spans that will replace the aging Kosciuszko Bridge on Thursday night with a dazzling lightshow before traffic was allowed onto the first new bridge to grace the city’s skyline since the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge connected Kings County to the Rock in 1964.
The light display was synchronized to city-themed ballads such as Frank Sanatra’s “New York, New York,” and Billy Joel’s, “New York State of Mind,” but it was the surrounding industrial wasteland that really gave the light show its flavor, according to one local.
“It was interesting to see this big spectacle in an otherwise different kind of environment,” said Greenpoint resident Willis Elkins. “The area is heavy industry, it’s not your typical tourist destination.”
Throughout the day leading up to the big show, drivers were stuck with traffic delays on both sides of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, as lanes are closed and traffic directed away from the old bridge and onto the new one.
But the old Kosciuszko has served as a major bottleneck along the expressway for decades, with Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D–Greenpoint) calling it “the worst bridge in the state.” The new dual bridges replacing it at a cost of $825 million are expected to ease congestion considerably, according to Cuomo.
“This new bridge will ease congestion and improve our region’s transportation network while demonstrating that the Empire State continues to lead the nation in building state-of-the-art infrastructure projects that will serve New Yorkers for generations to come,” the governor boasted at the opening.
Cuomo, who drove Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1932 Packard to the opening, rigged the bridge to radiate a massive, multi-color light show as the premier to what’s called “New York Harbor of Lights,” an event that will eventually feature coordinated displays from other bridges throughout the Five Boroughs, along with the Empire State Building.
Following the show, traffic was finally allowed to flow over the new bridge at 11:30 pm.
Cuomo announced in February that the old Kosciuzsko, opened in 1939, would go out with a bang, with workers carting away the span’s center portion and then rigging the remaining structure with explosives in order to speed up the work.
The demolition was originally set to coincide roughly with the opening of the new bridge, but as of Thursday morning, the bridge’s fiery doom isn’t expected to happen until the summer, according to a spokeswoman for state Department of Transportation.
Recently, a group of musicians calling themselves the Kosciuszko Philharmonic Orchestra created an online petition requesting the city let it perform Tchaikovsky’s famed “1812 Overture” during the span’s obliteration, although they remain short of their goal with only 237 out of 1,000 signatures.
Once the new span is open, six lanes will take traffic from Brooklyn to Queens and vice versa. Construction of a second cable-stay span with four-traffic lanes headed to Kings County, along with a bike and pedestrian lane, is in the works and is scheduled to open in 2020.
The Brooklyn Paper has been covering the plans to build the bridge since at least 2009, when the legendary Will Yakowicz wrote a piece headlined “The billion-dollar bridge.” What ever happened to that guy?