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Nov 21st in NYC History - Another Greatest Bridge, Sports MILEstones, Entertainers, and many things happening on the same exact day.

Posted: Nov 21, 2012 | 8:40 PM

1964... The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opens, connecting Staten Island to Brooklyn -- the world's longest span its day

More on the Verrazano Bridge in this article by Gay Talese, and below.

1834...  Hetty Green "the Witch of Wall Street" and the richest woman of her Gilded Age era was born.  She made a fortune in investing and she was a legendary miser.  She died in 1916.

1904...  Jazz' great tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins born.

1916... Columbia Football great and Chicago Bears' four-time champion Quarterback, Sid Luckman, born in Brooklyn.  He was #3 in the Heisman Trophy Award poll, despite the mediocrity of the rest of his team.  Luckman helped innovate the T-formation offense.  He played with the Bears for 12 years.

A teenage Ella Fitzgerald wins Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.  She didn't even plan to sing, and she bombed at first, but the MC encouraged her, and Ella stunned the raucous crowd.  Shortly after she went pro.

Amateur Night started in 1933.  We explore the why's of Apollo being the Mecca of Black Performing Arts on Harlem Tours.

1934... Joe Dimaggio signed by the New York Yankees for $25,000.

1934...  Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" debuts at Broadway's Alvin Theater starring Ethel Merman.

1944... Earl "the Pearl" Monroe, the great NY Knick, born.

1952... Eamonn Coghlan, the great Miler, born
in Ireland.  He was the world record holder for the Mile run, and won the Millrose Games Mile in Madison Square Garden seven times.   I have a personal connection reflected below.

1952...  Lorna Luft actress on Broadway, television and film born to Judy Garland.

1953... Print media figure Tina Brown celebrates another birthday.

1971... The New York Rangers beat California 12-1 at Madison Square Garden, their largest victory margin.  Two of the goals are scored in 8 seconds by Pierre Jarry.

1980... Gene Micheal becomes the NY Yankees' fourth Manager in less than a year-and-a-half.  George Steinbrenner was an incorrigible owner then.

1988... Carl Hubbell, the greatest NY Giants southpaw pitcher died.

1991...  The U.N. Security Council chose Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt to be secretary-general

1995...  The Dow closed above 5,000 for the first time.  In 2012 it is nearly 13,000.

1999...  Quentin Quisp died.  It is hard to summarize his life: writer of The Naked Civil Servant, conversationalist, actor, writer, gay icon. 

Word in the East Village in the 1990s was that you could look him up in the phone book, ask him out for lunch,during lunch he would provide you with interesting conversation while demonstrating impeccable manners and dress.  Then you
paid for the meal.  I regret not taking him up on the 'offer!'

2001...  An elderly Connecticut woman died of inhalation anthrax, the last of five people killed in the anthrax attacks, most of whom were in the NYC area, cross-contaminated by attacks on NYC media companies.  At least one other Anthrax killer is believed to remain at large.

More about the Verrazano Bridge:

The towers are 700 ft (250m) tall, like skyscrapers.  The span over the water is nearly a mile long.

The bridge is so long, it is engineered to compensate for the earth's curvature.  It's span is so high to accommodate that other recent New York marvel, the massive shipping container ship.

Three died constructing the span.

This bridge is only for motor vehiclesThe bridge still doesn't have a pedestrian path.  There were two excuses.  The first seems most important:  It was feared that such a path would add to the $325 million cost, and second it might attract suicides, which didn't stop a character from "Saturday Night Fever." 

Actually, there have been many such attempts, to the point that the bridge has signs to discourage it.

I think that this development cost is a canard.  It turns out that pedestrian paths on bridges are negligible costs.  The real 'cost' is tolls.  It is hard to collect pedestrian and bike tolls.  Robert Moses Bridges are all toll bridges, garnering huge amounts of cash for his quasi-public "authorities," which gained power by having so much cash.  The cost for pedestrians was not to the public but to the bridge's Authority.

The bridge also does not have capacity for rail trains.  I guess trains don't pay tolls either.

However, the bridge does host the end of the Five Borough Bike Tour.  The climb up the span is arduous, and you burn your breaks slowing the downward speeding.

Most dramatically, it is the dramatic opening for the New York Marathon, which my Dad publicized since it became a five borough event.

The 50c toll was supposed to be discontinued once they paid for the bridge construction, but it is now $13.  The truck toll is $47 to $70.  Therefore trucks in Brooklyn drive across all of Brooklyn and through downtown Manhattan to avoid the toll, contributing to the Lower East Side's stratospheric asthma rate, and legendary crosstown traffic.   In addition, the lack of rail freight tracks on the bridge encourages the use of trucking whose tiny diesel particulates are especially lethal, nestling deep inside lungs.

Despite the traffic diversion due to the high tolls 200,000 vehicles use it daily.  Ironically, for all the money collected, the bridge is not in great shape.

I think the lack of transit, pedestrians, bikes and freight is because its visionary, Robert Moses, did not like mass transit and the people who used it.  It is said that he never met a highway that he didn't like.  Ironically, Moses couldn't drive.  He had an office in his limousine, so he didn't notice what was out his car's windows.  In addition, Federal policy in that era favored highways and automobiles over mass transit.

The first car across the 6,690 foot span was a convertible blue Cadillac whose passengers wore light blue tuxedos.  They waited for a week to be first across.  They would be joined by
5000 other cars, mostly from Staten Island. 

The bridge, the last and greatest designed by octogenarian, O.H. Ammann, who was the engineer of the George Washington Bridge built three decades prior, and many great ones in between.

Asked how he felt after the bridge opened, Ammann replied:
"Oh, as I feel everyday," which was about all he publicly said that day, amidst the political statements and hoopla that Robert Moses orchestrated for hours.  About a minute was devoted to the greatest bridge engineer in history. 

Ammann also designed the Bayonne Bridge on the other end of Staten Island; the latter was the 'son' or 'daughter' of another bridge he helped design, the Hellgate Bridge, the inspiration for the Sydney Bridge, which is shorter in either length or height.  Be careful stating that to Australians.

Ammann designed the Triborough (RFK) Bridge, the Throg's Neck and Bronx-Whitestone Bridges, as well as planning and managing the Lincoln Tunnel construction. He designed over half of NYC's connections to the USA.

I was talking to a cab driver November 21st 2010, and we were reminding each other about Ammann's NYC bridges. We came up with four. That was the nerdiest cab ride for both of us in a while; I'm sure.

He also helped design the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco.

When they opened, the GW and the Verrazano Bridges were the longest suspension bridges on planet earth. Verrazano is still the longest in the Western Hemisphere, and top eight world wide. He died about a year after the Verrazano Bridge opened, after 40 years in engineering.

81 years before the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge was the longest single span bridge.  The Verrazano's construction marks the end of the great age of NYC's bridge

The bridge is named for the Italian
explorer and map maker Giovanni da Verrazano.  For the French he documented what is now called New York Harbor in 1524.  He was among the early Europeans to visit The Narrows since the Vikings.  The Verrazano part of the name for the bridge was partially a sop to the Italian Americans of the area, some of whom were displaced by the bridge development.

It would be the Dutch who would settle the area 100 years later. The estuary was first neglected by the Europeans, since it offered no short-cut to China, which worked out fine for the diverse Native Americans populating the region and enjoying its bounty.   

Staten Island is New York City's fastest growing borough.  It combines the brassy brashness of Brooklyn with exurban patriotism of the heartland to define a new confident assertive attitude that is unique.

Eamonn Coghlan

How do I know he's a great guy?  My parents publicized the
Millrose Games, which he was the perennial highlight, and we had dinner with Eamonn and New York Knick and Olympic Basketball great, Ray Lumpp at the Lumpps' home.

You might have noticed the Mobil brand in picture.  Mobil used to sponsor American Track and Field.  They were my father's top client.  I quip that I went to college on the Mobil scholarship.

Joe Dimaggio
Joe Dimaggio and my Dad share a picture at the legendary Carnegie Deli.  My Dad hosted a lot of press luncheons there.  I'll try to get a picture of that picture.

More about this day in history:


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