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As Others See Us

As Others See Us: NY Mag on the Tappan Zee Bridge

Tappan Zee Bridge. ©2013 Alison Perry

New York Magazine has discovered the Tappan Zee Bridge. Or more specifically, the future TZB II, providing 11 reasons in their feature article, Falling Down, why the bridge was built — and why it must be rebuilt.

  1. A Bridge Too Far
  2. Cheap and Easy
  3. And Ugly, Too
  4. Earthquakes!
  5. Worms!!
  6. Punch-Throughs!!!
  7. Strong As Steel (Which Turns Out to Be Not That Strong)
  8. Crash
  9. Bridge, Ho!
  10. Failure Is an Option
  11. The Chopsticks Solution

As people who are a little bit late to the bridge party — one that has been going on for more than a decade — it’s a pretty decent Spark Notes edition of TZB history. But if you really want to ace your exam, consider these points:

  • A Bridge Too Far — Think that politics is a recent consideration in the history of building bridges across the Hudson? Think again. The Tappan Zee Bridge, which had been previously considered for siting in Piermont, was built at the widest point of the river to be just beyond the authority of the Port Authority, which extends 25 miles from the Statue of Liberty. NPR’s Planet Money team created a podcast about that history, must listening for anyone sitting in 2013 Tappan Zee Bridge rush hour traffic.

Here’s another fun fact about the bridge: the original Thruway plan didn’t include a bridge between Nyack and Tarrytown. At one time, the NJ Turnpike was planned to extend all the way to Nyack, where it would have met up with the Thruway. This never implemented plan explains why Thruway Interchange 10 in South Nyack is so freakishly larger than it needs to be.

  • Earthquakes! When an earlier $16 billion plan was announced to build a new bridge, improve 287 and construct mass transit, planners said there were two compelling reasons for building anew rather than fixing the old TZB: earthquakes and security.

But earthquakes aren’t neighborhood events — they affect wider geographies. On June 2, 2011, scientists from Rutgers and Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory spoke at hearings about the safety and future of Indian Point convened in Stony Point by NYS Senator David Carlucci. ‘€œThe likelihood of a fault producing a large enough earthquake that is close to the power plant to damage it within its operational lifetime is remote,’€ said Dr. A.E. Gates of Rutgers. So it stands to reason that if an earthquake is such a remote possibility to impact Indian Point just up the river, it’s just as unlikely there will be seismic activity strong enough to shake the Tappan Zee Bridge. Earthquakes are a concern — but probably not the strongest case to make for spending $3-4 billion to rebuild the bridge.

  • Strong As Steel — Even if we agree a picture can tell a thousand words, the story it tells depends upon which picture you pick. The River Rowing Association, presented photos at the Tappan Zee Bridge Draft Environmental hearings in March 2012 showing daylight streaming through steel supports holding up the bridge roadway. Last October, John Lipscomb, the Patrol Boat captain for Riverkeeper, published an op-ed saying that the threat was overstated including pictures to prove that the issue had been resolved. Regardless of whose photos are more compelling, the design flaws which created the deterioration still exist.

NY Magazine called the 57 year old Tappan Zee Bridge “ugly” in their 2012 article about the history of the bridge. This photo by Alissa Perretz largely refutes that assertion.

  • And Ugly, Too: No doubt, most of the people who live in the Lower Hudson Valley would respond to this taunt about our beloved TZB with something equally nasty about where the author can stick that new bridge, anatomically speaking.

    Rusty? No question. Dangerous? You betcha. Ugly? Now, those are fighting words. Although most locals are resigned to replacing the current bridge with the twin span TZB II sometime in the next five years, the subject of thousands of striking photos and paintings might be a lot of things, but ugly ain’t one of them. Lower Hudson residents are not going to let a NYC slicker insult our bridge. After all, that’s our job.

 As Others See Us is an occasional feature that publishes what publications outside of Nyack say about the people and places in the Lower Hudson Valley.

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Photo Credits: Alison Perry, Alissa Perretz


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