Gentile unveils Verrazano sculpture in Bay Ridge Park
Charging that Brooklyn was effectively “shut out” of the official celebration of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Councilmember Vincent Gentile organized a tribute of his own on Wednesday, unveiling a sculpture of the man after whom the span was named.
During a ceremony in John J. Carty Park, a playground located at the foot of the bridge in Bay Ridge, Gentile unveiled a replica of a relief sculpture depicting Giovanni da Verrazzano, who was believed to have been the first European to have entered the Narrows, the waterway over which the bridge spans. The spelling of the explorer’s last name, which originally contained two Z’s, was changed to one Z when the bridge was named, Frank Naccarota, vice president of the Federation of Italian-American Organizations, told the Brooklyn Eagle.
Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) called the ceremony “a true Brooklyn celebration.”
The bronze relief sculpture of da Verrazzano is embedded into the marble base of the Verrazano Memorial Flagstaff in the park. It is a replica of the original relief sculpture that was erected in 1964 and was stolen during the 1980s, according to Gentile, who praised the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation for recreating the artwork. Experts from the department’s Citywide Monuments Conservation Program not only made the replica, but they also painstakingly cleaned the flagpole base. The marble base was covered in “years of graffiti and coats of paint,” Gentile said.
The relief was re-cast along with four rusticated stones at the monument base from the Verrazano castle in Greve in Chianti, Italy, where Verrazano was born in 1485.
The ceremony on Wednesday had a decidedly Italian flavor to it — a nod to da Verrazzano’s heritage.
Members of the Italian Opera Company Inc., a Bensonhurst-based performance group, sang both the American and Italian national anthems. Nina Di Gregorio, the manager of the opera company, is also a member of the Italian Historical Society, the group that pushed for the bridge to be named in honor of da Verrazzano.” We should all be together as one; all nationalities. But Italians should also stick together. We’re a little complacent,” she said.
Gentile noted that Giovanni da Verrazzano was long forgotten and virtually unknown in the early 1960s, when discussions were taking place on what to name the bridge. The Italian Historical Society, led by John LaCorte, pushed for the bridge to be named after da Verrazzano. “John LaCorte pushed for it. He pushed for recognition,” Gentile said.
Gentile boycotted the official Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) anniversary celebration on Staten Island on Nov. 21 because, he said, the event ignored Brooklyn. “We were kind of shut out of any anniversary celebration. Today, we have a celebration,” he said.
All of the elected officials representing Brooklyn and Staten Island were no-shows at the official celebration, Gentile said. Many of the lawmakers said they skipped the festivities because they were angered by a proposal by the MTA to raise the bridge’s toll to $16.00. The current toll is $15.
Gentile invited fellow Bay Ridge lawmakers state Sen. Marty Golden and Assemblymembers Nicole Malliotakis and Alec Brook-Krasny to the unveiling on Wednesday.
Brook-Krasny said da Verrazzano “would be very surprised by the $15 toll on as bridge with his name.”
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