Archive for the ‘Washington Irving Boat Club’ Tag

A Look Back at Turn-of-the-Century Bridge Plans

Originally scheduled for print publication, this story was cut due to lack of space. Photos from when the Tappan Zee Bridge was built are courtesy of the New York State Thruway Authority.

Forty-one months ago and with the recently-closed Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge as his backdrop, President Barack Obama spoke about his transportation bill, announcing a new infrastructure plan that included fast-tracking the bridge replacement project.

“At times you can see the river through the cracks of the pavement,” Obama had commented about it. “Now, I’m not an engineer, but I figure that’s not good.

* * * * *

The idea to build a bridge across one of the widest points in the Hudson River began as early as 1905 with a bridge (railroad) Piermont to Hastings. Calls continued for the next 20 or so years.

Craig Long, historian for Rockland County, the villages of Montebello and Suffern and the Town of Ramapo, recalled Pearl River resident and state assemblyman Fred Horn — nicknamed “Father of the Bridge” — proposed a bill in 1930 for a bridge from Piermont to Hastings with Hook Mountain and Rockland Lake as other locations.

During the next two years, Horn proposed that idea and a bridge/tunnel from Snedens Landing to Dobb’s Ferry; however, the site was within the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s 25-mile jurisdiction. Those ideas failed as did Horn when he ran for re-election.

Long said via email that in 1935, the Rockland Causeway-Tunnel Authority was created with a drive to bridge the Hudson from Nyack to Tarrytown. “As studies begin, no determination is made as to whether Upper Nyack, Nyack, or South Nyack will be the bridge’s terminus. In August of that year, it is central Nyack; by October it is South Nyack, Voorhis Point.”

The following March (1936) Grand View was chosen as a potential landing site; by August the War Department approved it and Tarrytown on the Westchester side. While Hook Mountain again a choice the northern location didn’t sit well with Zoning Commissioner Elmer Hader, who gained support for nixing the idea, or with residents.

“This is the beauty spot of the Hudson Valley, which should not be destroyed by a bridge,” Zoning Commissioner Elmer Hader protested. New York State governor Thomas E. Dewey, and local legislators, received hundreds of telegrams and letters protesting the proposed 3.25-mile crossing, according to an editorial in The New York Times said.

South Nyack’s business district and Tarrytown riverfront estates were sacrificed and paved the way for this Hudson Valley crossing more than 60 years ago that lasted beyond its time. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute alumnus Emil H. Pager of Madigan-Hyland designed the $81 million Bridge for a 50-year service life that resulted in a utilitarian appearance, RPI Professor Michael Symons noted.

Foundation piers and steel false work were constructed near Haverstraw at Grassy Point. Rive water was dammed off to lower its level, and when the piers were completed, the dams were broken to release the water. Those newly-constructed sections were then towed downriver to the project site.

Ten days before Christmas 1955, the new bridge opened to traffic, connecting I-87 northbound from New York City to Albany, and later connecting to I-287 (Cross Westchester Expressway). Legislation signed by Governor W. Averell Harriman on February 28, 1956, officially named it the Tappan Zee Bridge to honor the Tappan Indians of the Lenape tribe and Zee for “sea” in Dutch.

Twelve-year-old Paul Anderson surprised everyone at the ribbon-cutting ceremony — including Nyack resident and actress Helen Hayes MacArthur, Thruway Authority Chairman Bertram D. Tallamy, and other dignitaries — by walking across the bridge, earning him a ride in the governor’s black Cadillac.

In 1994, the structure was rededicated and renamed when Governor Malcolm Wilson’s name was added on the 20th anniversary of his leaving the governor’s office.

A 27-mile stretch of Thruway from Suffern to Yonkers opened only 18 months after the first cars drove on the thruway upstate. Not what you’d expect four days after opening was a major traffic accident when four cars traveling from Rockland to Westchester at dusk bumped into each other.

The bridge was eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (under Criteria A and C in Appendix D – Preliminary Section 106 and 4(f) Analysis for Tappan Zee Bridge). The purportedly-100-year-old wood barge and its coal cargo submerged below – reminiscent of the river’s role in industry and commerce, and in the construction zone – were also recommended for the same prestigious award.

Coincidentally, March 1952 marked the start of construction, and 60 years later (March 2012) came a Request for Proposal (RFP) for its replacement — the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge — whose westbound span recently opened. As eastbound traffic was moved to that span ahead of schedule, crews can begin dismantling the Tappan Zee Bridge so the new bridge’s eastbound span can be completed.

Photos are courtesy of The Virtual Archives and the New York State Thruway Authority.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2017

Landscape Changed: Future, Present and Past


The above photo is credit New York State Thruway Authority.

This month for the third time steel blue girder assemblies will be pushed from the Westchester abutment over the train tracks to the first pier. My guess — given the first time was on October 23, and the second was on November 20 — the next will be December 20, right when folks are heading into the city. Good planning.

Here’s the underbelly of the bridge we’re driving on daily. I don’t think about this when I’m in the car; I’m too busy avoiding the lanes with seams and drivers who dawdle to look at the construction.


I took the above photo during an October 2014 media tour, when Governor Cuomo was in Piermont to greet the I Lift NY super crane.


For a peek at history and to learn about this schoolhouse click here.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

Tappan Zee Bridge History: Washington Irving Boat Club Still Going Strong 60 Years Later

This active club celebrated an anniversary July 4 and began in the Quonset hut used by those who built the Tappan Zee Bridge.

looking outWhen the sun begins to set, the view from the Washington Irving Boat Club can take your breath away with its unobstructed view of the river and bridge, where President Obama and Governor Cuomo addressed Tarrytown and the nation last year.

Saturday before Memorial Day found Fleet Master Walter Gregory and several members moving boats via the Travel Lift into vacant slips (the club has 85 to 90 docked boats).

“We’re proud of the work that members put into developing the club and maintaining it,” Gregory said, securing a boat. WIBC property includes the boatyard, the outside patio, the restaurant bar, the Tiki bar, and the grounds.

front awningNote: WIBC formerly managed the restaurant and later leased it to the Maceyak family, which opened Windows on the Hudson. When the family opened another restaurant, WIBC remodeled the kitchen and interior. It changed ownership and became Sunset Cove, which has an extensive menu, a birds-eye view of the bridge and sunsets, and a public dining room.

At opening day ceremonies last month Jacques Vieweg, Vice Commodore of Administration/Treasurer, introducing the 2015 officers — Ken Fiala, Commodore; Thomas Murphy, Vice Commodore of Operations; himself; Dann Soldan, Secretary; Raymond Fagan, Sgt. of Arms; and Gregory — and recognized new members.

photo4Vieweg thanked the members for maintaining the club and emphasized safe boating amid the bridge construction. Past secretary Mike Smacchia (1970-1992) was recognized for his contributions (including documenting the club’s history), after which club flags were hoisted and the canon was fired twice.

Flashback to 1951, when four men — Joe Reis, Dominick Cerbone, Andrew Nemeth, Mike Kooney and Toby Mosiello — who liked boating got together. Twenty-five men came to that first meeting, elected officers and set a $5 initiation fee. Dues were 50 cents for eight months (boating season).

The only available place along the river was a basin next to and south of the Tarrytown Boat Club where the village dumped refuse during its bi-annual cleanups. Undaunted, the members cleaned up the area and kept each boat tied to a stake in the water.

“Members used to row out to boats in the 50s and 60s,” Soldan said. WIBC had 50 members by the end of its first season. New officers were elected the next season, and members kept improving the area. Things changed when the Tappan Zee Bridge opened on December 15, 1955.

Tarrytown Harbormaster Kevin Lustyik remembered when the bridge was built. “They completed it in two and one-half-years,” he said. “There were no restrictions on noise back then, and they did pile driving day and night.”

moving buildngLustyik pointed to a collage of pictures on the clubhouse wall. “See that building in the background?” he asked, referring to the Little Red Schoolhouse purchased from the Tarrytown School Board more than 25 years ago. “That’s the Pierson School at Broadway” and Hamilton. “The building was on its lawn and had to be taken away in sections.”

Merritt-Chapman (formerly Merritt-Chapman, Inc. and Corbetta) — Merritt-Chapman & Scott was prime foundation contractor, and Corbetta was concrete subcontractor) — put up a Quonset hut as its headquarters and staging area on the last bit of riverfront land. Construction crews made a 40’ x 40’ concrete slab created next to and west of the hut for welding parts and built five docks along the southern shoreline.

Note: American Bridge Company (a division of U.S. Steel Company) and Bethlehem Steel won the state’s bid to furnish and build structural steel for the bridge’s superstructure and the tied-arch section and was the prime contractor.

hutA written agreement with Tarrytown required the bridge builders to dismantle and remove the Quonset hut, break up and cart away the concrete slab and remove the docks when the bridge was completed.

Club officers had another idea and met with the Tarrytown Waterfront Commission, which agreed to turn over the lease. Its 75 members committed to work 20 hours each season to tend the grounds for village residents.

Now they had a basin for mooring boats and a clubhouse for meeting per a one-year renewable lease for a maximum of 225 members.
The Quonset hut needed heat, electricity and running water, weatherproofing and insulation, and later, indirect heat and a small kitchen, a bathroom and a breakwater to protect it from storms.

“Members put all of these in a little at a time,” Gregory said as we walked through the clubhouse. “It was all volunteer back then, like it is today. Members are carpenters, electricians, plumbers, lawyers, doctors, accountants, all professions.

Nearly five years later (September 1960) Hurricane Donna seriously damaged yet did not destroy WIBC’s $17,000, 300’ bulkhead.

todayNote: Hurricane Donna wasn’t the last storm to impact WIBC. Hurricane Sandy (2012) necessitated new carpeting in the main bar and restaurant, and Quonset Hut, Commodore Ken Fiala told The Hudson Independent that year. “We felt very lucky that there wasn’t any permanent damage to the buildings,” he said.

By 1963 they’d built and installed floats and finger floats for mooring boats. During the years the five docks were reinforced with donated concrete from Cooney Bros., Inc., and the launch ramp and area next to the docks were laid with asphalt. Members planted a lawn and flowers around the buildings and added a chain-link fence.

“Literally thousands of hours of personal work time were put in by members each according to his own skill,” Smacchia wrote. WIBC was incorporated as a nonprofit in 1956. Fast forward to 1979, when members wanted a new clubhouse and decided to buy the Little Red Schoolhouse from the Tarrytown School Board. Former Commodore John O. Speight detailed the events, perhaps with a grin.

“We agreed that we would make an offer of $1500 and agree to disconnect all services and redo the grounds,” Speight wrote. “We attended the School Board meeting. At this meeting, the Fire Dept. was also there looking to make a bid. They didn’t, as they thought I said $15,000 instead of $1500.”

schoolhouseMembers tried to move the three separate sections that day (April 13, 1979), and finally succeeded after jacking up each section at a time, sliding the trailer under it, and lowering each section onto the trailer.

“Untold hours of work,” Soldan said about the sections. “They brought it down (here), and then they had to erect it onto a foundation.”

In 102-degree weather members volunteered to lay the schoolhouse’s foundation. Because of the brutal heat, they jumped into the basin, violating a club rule that exists today, celebrating more than 6,000 hours of work. WIBC’s Grand Opening was July 4 (1981).

To this day, Gregory said, “We have strict rules, including no swimming in the basin.”

While the river scenery changes, WIBC remains a professional marina with a friendly, small-club atmosphere and a calendar of activities. For information, call 914-332-0517 or email

My article originally appeared in The Hudson Independent July 2015.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

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