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Tappan Zee Turns 60, But Focus Is On New Bridge

Jerry Blumenfeld in Nyack Memorial Park Photo Credit: Tina Traster
The program celebrating the Dec. 15, 1955 opening of the TZB. Photo Credit: New York State Thruway Authority
Tappan Zee viewing platform Photo Credit: Tina Traster
The Tappan Zee Bridge span shortly after its Dec. 15, 1955 opening. Photo Credit: New York State Thruway Authority

NYACK, N. Y. -- The Tappan Zee turns 60 Tuesday, but most residents are celebrating the features the $4 billion replacement bridge will deliver, including better traffic flow, walking/biking lanes, and possibly rail service down the road.

Every morning Jerry Blumenfeld comes down to the river to read the newspaper. He likes to gaze out at the river and watch the new bridge being built. On Tuesday, Blumenfeld, whose been in Rockland County nearly as long as the Tappan Zee, expressed no sentimentality about the structure's inevitable demise.

"Are you kidding?" Blumenthal said when asked whether he'd miss the familiar bridge icon. "It's time to go, no question about it." The Nyack resident, like many, looks forward to the promised improvements, though he says wistfully he wishes he could see rail service in his lifetime.

South Nyack Mayor Bonnie Christian remembers riding her bicycle on the Tappan Zee Bridge when it was unveiled 60 years ago. "I was there for the ribbon cutting," she said. "It was just spectacular."

But Christian is focused on the new bridge, and on protecting her village from traffic nightmares on residential streets.

Five months ago, the state Thruway Authority agreed to end the 3-mile shared path at the exit instead of in a residential neighborhood. The decision followed months of bad blood between the state and residents and representatives of the tiny river village.

The village has hired VHB, a planning and civil engineering firm with an office in White Plains, to help determine if there's tax revenue potential in developing the interchange. The company will be paid $250,000 — money provided by the Thruway Authority and bridge builder Tappan Zee Constructors.

"This is a new beginning and hopefully the bridge will be a gateway to Rockland," said Christian, who would like to see a bike shop or some restaurants. We view this as an opportunity to increase ratables because right now all the tax burden is on our residents."

Nyack Mayor Jen Laird White is also feeling the excitement of a new bridge. "Change is stressful but people are excited abut having a newer, faster, safer bridge."

Upon its completion 60 years ago, Roger Panetta wrote: "The building of the bridge was a decisive moment in Rockland's history. And in this new connection, breaching the water boundary, overcoming the obstacles of nature, we find the origins of modern Rockland County. Looking closely at the Tappan Zee Bridge and the changes it precipitated, we glimpse the story of modern America."

Reflecting on those sentiments, historian Clare Sheridan said, "It's doubtful that the new bridge will have the same level and breadth of impact on our community. My hope is that it will become representative of a commitment of our society to carefully review and consistently maintain our infrastructure. If that's the case, the new bridge will find an important place in history. "

With all eyes looking forward, many are gathering up photos, renderings, and memories of the Tappan Zee.

"When the Tappan Zee Bridge opened 60 years ago today, it became forever ingrained into the landscape, economy and identity of the Lower Hudson Valley," said State Senator David Carlucci. "Six decades later as construction on the New NY Bridge continues, residents on both sides of the river can expect several new features when the bridge is completed in 2018."

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