Opened on November 21, 1964, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge celebrates its 50th anniversary this week, so we’re honoring the occasion by looking at some of the statistics, quirks, and interesting bits of info that make up the massive crossing’s history. From parachuting off its tower, to a cameo in Saturday Night Fever, to nearly 22 dozen light bulbs, here are 25 things you may not have know about the bridge.
1. It could have been a tunnel, instead. The original discussion for crossing the Narrows began in 1888 — but that was for a tunnel. After a bridge was proposed and the design nixed, they went back to the tunnel idea, and actually began digging. The abandoned tunnels, which only went 150 feet but still remain, were nicknamed “Hylan’s Holes” after then-Mayor John F. Hylan, who championed the failed project. It went back and forth between tunnel/bridge until talk about a bridge, under the recommendation of Robert Moses, became serious in 1946.
2. It was built in five years. It took 16 years to build the Brooklyn Bridge (completed 81 years before the Verrazano), and one year and 45 days to build the Empire State Building (completed 33 years before the Verrazano).
4. The cost to build the bridge, in 1964 dollars, was $320 million — which would be around $2.45 billion today.
5. About 7,000 people were displaced in Bay Ridge to make room for the bridge, including dentist Henry Amen, whose office was leveled, but who found a new one nearby — he is still practicing there today at age 88.
6. The length of its central span, which made it the longest suspension bridge in the world when it opened, is 4,260 feet, the equivalent of just over 14 football fields. It lost that title in 1981, and is currently the eleventh longest in the world; but it’s still the longest in the United States.
7. About 12,000 men worked on its construction, and three men died in falls. Workers walked off the job for four days, demanding safety nets, which they got, and which, afterward, caught and saved three more workers who also fell. None of the workers were invited to the opening; instead they attended a mass for the three victims.
8. Nobody is buried in the structure’s foundation, like they claim in Saturday Night Fever. In the film, the bridge symbolizes freedom and a better life…in Staten Island. The film was released 20 years after the groundbreaking of the bridge — that year, 1959, the population of Staten Island was 220,000; by 1980, it was 352,000, so Tony wasn’t alone in these thoughts.