Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge to receive needed safety fencing
In an attempt to increase safety, protect the bridge from the elements and prevent potential “jumpers,” the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, the largest suspension bridge in North America, will receive safety fencing on the upper and lower levels.
The Verrazzano has been the scene of multiple suicides and suicide attempts over the years. For example, in 2013-14, there were 14 suicide attempts, seven of which were successful. More recently, in one two-week period in 2020, there were three attempts, two of which were successful.
The 28,000 linear-foot barrier will consist of a high-strength, stainless steel mesh capable of withstanding exposure to high winds, the marine environment, and other surrounding elements.
MTA Bridges and Tunnels made the announcement March 17. The MTA Board voted approval of a design/build contract to be awarded to El Sol Contracting/Dewberry Engineering for $32.8 million.
Tunnels Daniel DeCrescenzo Jr., president of MTA Bridges and Tunnels, said that the addition will be a vital safety feature for the bridge.
“The critical project required thorough analysis and testing to meet the structural and operational challenges of this major suspension bridge, which is a critical link in the regional transportation network,” he said.
The project is expected to be completed in less than two years with most of the work to be finished by the end of 2022.
Elected officials responded positively to the news.
“This project will improve the safety and security conditions of one of our most important pieces of infrastructure and will prevent future tragedies,” said Assemblymember Michael Tannousis.
“While it is tragic this fencing is needed at all, it will absolutely save lives,” said Councilmember Justin Brannan, who said he’s been calling for the move since 2019. “I am grateful to the MTA for moving forward with this necessary project. It will not solve our city’s mental health crisis, but it will be one less opportunity for a person to make a split-second decision that cannot be reversed.”
State Sen. Diane Savino said, “Throughout the years, we have seen countless tragedies at the all-too-inviting open space on the Verrazzano Bridge. I applaud the MTA Bridges and Tunnels for taking the steps needed to create safety fencing after years of community advocacy.”
The MTA has coordinated closely with regional emergency response partner agencies on this project including FDNY, NYPD, New York State Police as well as internal stakeholders.
The bridge, which opened in 1964, was built without a pedestrian walkway/bicycle path. At the time, it was reported that “master builder” Robert Moses and other builders feared that having such a path would encourage suicides. But that hasn’t prevented people from finding their way onto the roadway and jumping off.
The height of the bridge makes it one of the most dangerous in the city for jumpers, since chances of surviving a fall are slim, The New York Times reported.
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