Archives and Special Collections, College of Staten Island, CUNY
title: Arches of Steel, Picture of the Verrazano-Narrowns Bridge

| home | the narrows | from transportation asset to barrier | winning support for the bridge |
| construction | dedication | assessment | image gallery | bibliography | credits |

FROM TRANSPORTATION ASSET TO BARRIER

Seen as one of the entryways to America from the time of Verrazano, so far as internal transportation networks were concerned, ideas about The Narrows changed dramatically. When transportation was by water, The Narrows was seen as a valuable transportation link. However, after the development of railroads as the dominant means of freight transportation, The Narrows came to be regarded as a water barrier. Proposals for tunneling under or bridging over The Narrows were made as early as 1888.

Railroads

By the 1840s, railroads had begun to eclipse internal water transportation in the United States. Staten Island got train service beginning in 1860, but it just ran from Vanderbilt Landing inland. No bridge was constructed to link the Island to the nearby rail networks dominating the region, until a swing bridge was constructed in 1888 connecting it to New Jersey.

imag e of Railroad map of NYC and Long Island
Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

 

The First Tunnel Proposal

In 1888, subsequent to building a swing bridge between New Jersey and Staten Island, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad proposed a tunnel between Staten Island and Brooklyn.

In 1890, Staten Island developer Erastus Wiman sponsored a plan by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to construct a tunnel under the Narrows to connect Staten Island with Brooklyn. The proposal never got through the approval process when financial challenges stopped the plan at the drawing board.

image of Newsclipping from New York Times
New York Times, August 5, 1890, pg. 2.

The Second Tunnel Proposal

New York mayor John F. Hylan advocated a tunnel at The Narrows for the sake of Staten Island's development. He secured appropriations of $500,000. As the first steps in building a combined freight and passenger tunnel, shafts were begun in Bay Ridge and near Fort Wadsworth in 1923. The project was soon abandoned and the excavations came to be known as "Hylan's Holes."

image of a proposal on the Narrows Tunnel
City of New York Board of Estimate and Apportionment. The Narrows Tunnel: South Street Shaft, Invitation to Bid, Forms of Bid and Contract, Including Specifications for The construction of South Street Shaft in the Borough of Richmond for a Freight and Passenger Railroad Tunnel. New York: City of New York, Board of Estimate and Apportionment, 1923. Archives & Specials Collections Department of the Library, College of Staten Island, Staten Island, New York.

The First Bridge Proposal

A New York engineer, David B. Steinman's proposed a suspension bridge across The Narrows in 1926 to be funded by private investors. His "Liberty Bridge" would have had a 4,620-foot clear span and 800-foot tall towers ornamented with Gothic tracery enclosing observation decks, beacon lights, and a clarion of bells. A business syndicate applied to Congress for a charter to build and operate the bridge. Congressman Fiorello H. La Guardia single-handedly blocked the proposal, stating his opposition to a private corporation profiting from a civic need.

image of a drawing of the proposed liberty bridge
Rendering of the never constructed Liberty Bridge.Archives & Specials Collections Department of the Library, College of Staten Island, Staten Island, New York.

| home | the narrows | from transportation asset to barrier | winning support for the bridge |
| construction | dedication | assessment | image gallery | bibliography | credits |

Archives & Special Collections
College of Staten Island, CUNY
2800 Victory Blvd
Staten Island, NY 10314
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