To the letter! Petition to add second Z to Verrazano bridge

To the letter! Petition to add second Z to Verrazano bridge
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

Can’t they spell?

A Dyker Heights activist is demanding the Metropolitan Transportation Authority tack another Z onto the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge so it matches namesake Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano. Every day that the Florentine explorer’s misspelled cognome hangs on roadway signs is a travesty, and now its time to do something about it, the 21-year-old activist said.

“It’s been 52 years we’ve been spelling it wrong,” said Robert Nash, who founded the Italian-American Society at his alma mater Saint Francis University. “If we’re really going to honor him — and his name has two Zs — then its time.

Nash started a petition that garnered 58 names — including 23 Brooklynites — calling on the authority, which maintains the massive span, to fix the spelling.

But the agency has no plans to add the missing letter — particularly because changing signs on expressways leading to the bridge would be costly, time-consuming, and create traffic, a spokesman said.

The state spent $4 million to replace 139 signs leading to the Triborough Bridge when the it renamed the span the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge in 2008, according to a New York Times report.

Nash admitted the push is an uphill battle, but he’s looking for support from New York’s Italian-American electeds — Gov. Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio (formerly Warren Wilhelm, Jr.), he said.

“We have a governor, Andrew Cuomo, who claims to be Italian-American, and Mayor DeBlasio — now’s the time that we could possibly get some type of a political movement going with petitions,” he said.

The misspelling’s origins are murky.

Master urban planner Robert Moses famously opposed the name because he said Verrazzano was a historical footnote with a tough-to-pronounce name, but a push from the Italian Historical Society of America and support from then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller sealed the deal. The single-z spelling was a typographical error that stuck, according to the Staten Island Advance. The website for the Italian Historical Society of America, which advocated naming the bridge after Verrazzano, exclusively refers to the span using the double-z spelling.

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlynch@cnglocal.com.