Construction of suicide prevention fencing along the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge was completed Friday, with local officials hopeful the permanent structure will save lives of those in distress.
The stainless steel mesh fencing extends 28,000 feet across the entire stretch of the upper and lower roadway connecting Brooklyn with Staten Island, which has been the site of multiple suicides, most recently last November.
Officials from both sides of the bridge praised completion of the safety fencing after years of advocacy.
“I live right near the bridge, so anytime I heard helicopters early in the morning or in the middle of the night, my heart would break because I knew what it meant,” Brooklyn Council Member Justin Brannan said.
“There are so many people suffering in silence, and tragically, we sometimes don’t know what someone is going through until it’s too late. If this fencing deters even just one person from jumping, or from making a plan to jump from the bridge in the first place, then we just bought that person a little more time to push through the shame and despair and seek help instead,” the legislator added.
There are also six phone lines installed across the bridge that connect directly to a suicide prevention hotline. The new structure replaces a temporary fence that the transportation authority constructed in 2019 after a string of suicides.
“The idea is to prevent people in distress from making that split second permanent decision to a temporary problem,” Brannan said.
Staten Island Council Member David Carr described the fencing as a “necessity” for the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, and praised the bipartisan effort that led to its installation.
“It will be an asset that will prevent future losses of life. I want to thank former Minority Leader Steven Matteo and my colleague Justin Brannan for their years of advocacy on this issue,” Carr said.
Construction of the permanent fencing was announced in March 2021, with an estimated cost of $32.8 million.
“This fencing will absolutely save lives, and that’s why I’m so proud we found ways past concerns about cost and feasibility and got this done,” Brannan said.
“I want people to know that there is no shame in speaking up, and that stigma around mental health issues and thoughts of suicide has no place in a just world. The world is better with us in it, no one is alone, and I hope the new fence can really be a reminder of all of that.”
If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide, do not leave the person alone; remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs, or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt; call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273–8255; and take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.