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Tappan Zee Turns 60, But Focus Is On New Bridge

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

TARRYTOWN, 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.

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.

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 Sen. 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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