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Governor Cuomo Cuts Ribbon Opening the New Span of the Kosciusko Bridge

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Governor Andrew Cuomo with Queens community leaders who helped promote the expansion of the decaying Kosciusko Bridge. Photos by Dan Miller/DMD GLOBAL IMAGES(C)2019

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo accompanied by his mother former New York First Lady Matilda Cuomo and Assembly Members Cathy Nolan (Queens) and Joseph R. Lentol (Brooklyn) cut the ribbon officially opening the new and final span of the Kosciusko Bridge last week.

By: Dr. Dan Miller & and Joyce Vetere Milowski

The governor told the story how his father and former Governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, a young man from Queens travelled over the Kosciusko Bridge to go to Brooklyn to visit his mother Matilda Rafa, who he met when the two were students at St. John’s University in Queens. The Governor lamented on how his father would sit in traffic on the Kosciusko Bridge traveling to see his sweetheart in Brooklyn.

Governor Cuomo said the new span of the Kosciusko Bridge will help cut traveling to Brooklyn.

The $873 million Kosciusko Bridge project was completed four year early giving millions of bonus dollars to the construct company for early completion, and was on budget.

Together, the two spans will ease travel, enhance safety and reduce congestion by providing  five Queens-bound and four Brooklyn-bound lanes for motorists on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. In addition the new span adds a 20-foot-wide shared bike and walkway on the Brooklyn-bound span which also includes spectacular views of Manhattan. This major construction project helped provide as many as 11,300 construction jobs in the New York City metropolitan area. On hand for the ribbon cutting we’re champions of the building and construction industry, Gary LaBarbera president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New YorK.

The Governor admitted that he was a product of a mixed marriage.”My mother is from Brooklyn and my father is from Queens,” said Governor Cuomo as he addressed hundreds of guests on the new span of the bridge, including many of the hard hat men and women who worked on the bridge.

Here are some of Governor Cuomo’s remarks just before the ribbon cutting ceremony:

 “This bridge has a lot of people who made it possible. The men and women of labor certainly. It does not happen without Assemblyman Joe Lentol and Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan. Let’s give them a round of applause. It does not happen without our federal partners Carolyn Maloney and Greg Meeks getting us the federal money that we needed. It does not happen without a lot of community people who put their own self-interest aside and said let’s build the bridge. Let’s give them a round of applause. 

And it was long overdue. The Kosciuszko Bridge was built eighty years ago. It was supposed to handle 10,000 cars. It was handling 200,000 cars. It was a chokepoint for years. It obstructed traffic. It was dangerous. So it had to be done.  

The new bridge is smart. It has more lanes. They are wider lanes. It is not as steep a bridge so the traffic can move faster. It is going to reduce traffic 65%. That will make the environment better and everything better. Not only did we build a bridge, but Joe is exactly right. 

We said how do help the community that has been dealing with this for so long. And we have a 30,000 square foot park on the Queens side. We have a pedestrian and bicyclist ramp on the bridge. And Joe’s dream of a seven acre park under the bridge on the Brooklyn side, Under the K, $7 million dollars in state funding to make that dream a reality. That is going to be beautiful. 

A lot of people worked very hard to make this possible. Building a bridge is not easy. Building a bridge is hard. But building a bridge is great. And New York was built from doing great things. Somewhere along the way this nation forgot how to do great. We lost our confidence. We lost our swagger; we lost that arrogance we had that said, “We can do what no one else did.” You look at the State of New York; you look at New York City: We did things that people said couldn’t be done. You tell us we can’t do it; we’ll show you how. We built tallest buildings; we built the longest bridges; we built the deepest subways. They all said we couldn’t do it. All the cynics and skeptics they nipped at our heels. And we built the greatest state on the globe because we wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. And doing great things is hard, and that’s why this bridge is great, but it was hard. 

And we’re not afraid of hard. We’re going to build LaGuardia Airport, the first new airport in 25 years. We’re going to build a new JFK Airport because it’s hard but it’s great. We’re going to build a new Javits Center because it’s hard but it’s great. We’re doing electronic tolling because it’s hard but it’s great. We’re building a new Long Island Railroad because it’s hard but it’s great. That is the New York way – and we’re going to remind New Yorkers what it takes to be great and what made us great, and we’re going to show this nation what we can do when we are at our best. 

And speaking about our best, the name Kosciuszko – which I mispronounced for many, many years I want you to know – but now that I know better, the name Kosciuszko is an honor to the Polish-American people and the Polish community, and it should be. And the name Kosciuszko says something else that is very timely today. At a time when this nation is questioning, “What does it mean to be an American?” and “Who is an American?” and “What does America really mean?”, Thadeus Kosciuszko, a Polish immigrant, came to this country to fight the Revolutionary War. Thomas Jefferson called him a “Son of Liberty.” He was essential during the Revolutionary War – Kosciuszko was the one who came up with the idea of the 60-ton chain that went across the Hudson River at West Point to stop the British ships from going up the Hudson River. That was Kosciuszko, and he was praised by our Founding Fathers, and what it reminds us all is don’t tell me who’s an American and who isn’t an American because we are all immigrants. 

We are Polish-American and it is, it is the immigrants that made this nation. From the earliest days, from the Revolutionary War, it is the immigrants. It’s Polish-Americans, it’s Asian-Americans, it’s African-Americans, it’s Italian-Americans, it’s Jewish Americans, but it’s the second word that counts. They are Americans. They are Americans. And that’s who built this nation, and don’t forget it, and that’s what Tadeusz Kosciuszko stands for, and when we remember that, when we remember who we are, when we are once again comfortable in our own skin, knowing who we are and where we came from, then we can get back to making this nation great and New York is the place to look to find the way forward. 

Thank you and God bless you.”

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