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Revolutionary War hero Kosciuszko burned bridges, now New York burns his

April 28, 2017 By Paul Frangipane Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, left, unveils the original name plaque for the new Kosciuszko Bridge. AP Photos/Julie Jacobson
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On July 4, 1783, Congress hired Tadeusz Kosciuszko to light the night sky with fireworks to celebrate the first year of American independence. On April 27, 2017, Gov. Andrew Cuomo had the New York skies lit in a foreshadowing of the demolition of the old Kosciuszko Bridge.

Since 1939, a brown and gold placard with the words “Kosciuszko Bridge” has told Brooklyn drivers that they’re almost in Queens, or vice versa.

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The name might be hard to pronounce for some and certainly difficult to read if you’re speeding past it on the bridge, but in Poland, Kosciuszko is a name to be remembered.

Kosciuszko was a Polish immigrant born in 1746 and an engineer in the American Revolution. He burned bridges in the war to deter the British army and is known for strengthening the American position at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777.

He started as a military trainee in Poland until the king sent him to study military architecture in Paris. Kosciuszko became inspired by the American Revolution and crossed the ocean and rivers to Philadelphia, where he would eventually volunteer for the Continental Army, which was under Gen. George Washington’s command.

Washington chose Kosciuszko to strengthen West Point, New York and he became the chief of the engineering corps there in 1780.

He returned to Poland after becoming an American citizen and helped to stop the Russian invasion of 1792. He was sorely defeated and sent to prison in St. Petersburg until 1796. He returned to the land of the free after his release before he would return to Europe and die in Switzerland on Oct. 15, 1817.

2017 has been marked the “Year of Kosciuszko” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Gov. Cuomo honored Kosciuszko by opening up three lanes of traffic between Brooklyn and Queens and planning the controlled demolition of the rusty old Kosciuszko Bridge to make way for the shiny modern display that will be the new Kosciuszko Bridge.

Bridge traffic between Brooklyn and Queens began at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday. Traffic will go in both directions until the construction of the second span, which is expected to open by early 2020, is complete.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

 


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