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Put a flag on it! Locals call for Old Glory on the Verzzano - Brooklyn Paper

Put a flag on it! Locals call for Old Glory on the Verzzano

Patriots: Maria Campanella and Marko Kepi want the Metropolitan Transit Authority to plant American flags on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

They want to bridge the patriotic gap.

A Bensonhurst woman is calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to raise American flags on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge so Southern Brooklynites can bask in the glory of the Stars and Stripes. The bridge acts as the gateway to New York Harbor and should be decked out in Old Glory, said the patriot behind the push.

“That bridge is our pride — it’s our monument — and we should proudly have our flag waving on it,” said Maria Campanella, who sells ice cream on the Fort Hamilton Army Base. “It’s like looking out the window of the world through that bridge and it’s the first thing the ships see coming to New York. We deserve to have our flag up there.”

For the last two summers Campanella has sold sweet treats out of her mom-and-pop ice cream truck in Bay Ridge and on the Fort Hamilton Army Base. Each night she’d eat dinner gazing up at the massive suspension bridge — and that’s when inspiration struck last summer.

“It’s just so beautiful and I was looking at it and thought, ‘We gotta get flags on this bridge because it’s in the backyard of the Army Base,’ ” said Campanella, who is known as the area’s “ice cream girl.” “And twice a day the soldiers stand at full attention toward the bridge. It would be so beautiful with the flags.”

Since then, Campanella campaigned for the flags through social media, and last month Marko Kepi, a staffer in state Sen. Martin Golden’s office, helped her set up an online petition for the flags that has garnered nearly 400 signatures from both sides of the Narrows.

Some have poo-pooed the ice cream girl’s vision because back in 1979 the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority draped a massive American flag across the span for its bicentennial, only to see it quickly ripped to shreds by the wind.

But Campanella feels that if hanging a flag off the bridge isn’t possible, the obvious answer is planting ensigns atop the towers, or even opting for a flagless touch of patriotism if need be.

“A flag is not meant to be tied down,” she said. “We don’t want it tied down. We’d want it free standing. But if we can’t do that, I think we could light the bridge up red, white, and blue — kind of like how the [new] Kosciuzsko Bridge was lit up.”

Despite the skeptics, the patriotic push is gaining steam among flag-waving locals. And for some, one flag isn’t even enough, said a Bay Ridgite who supports the effort.

“It’s the least that can be done to show some respect to this country,” said Bay Ridgite Mike Nunzio, who was drafted into the army during the Vietnam War. “I say cover the damn thing in flags. This is America — show them we’re proud of our country.”

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.

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