A Brooklyn councilman is demanding the MTA look west and rip a page out of the Golden Gate Bridge’s playbook to stop a sudden surge of people leaping to death off the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.
Councilman Justin Brannan, a Democrat who represents the Bay Ridge side of America’s longest suspension bridge, says the Metropolitan Transportation Authority should build a massive suicide-prevention barrier along the Verrazzano similar to a $211 million barrier going up along the Golden Gate Bridge overlooking San Francisco Bay.
He fired off his request in a letter this week to Daniel DeCrescenzo, acting president of MTA Bridges and Tunnels, in the wake of a man leaping to death from the Verrazzano Bridge on Saturday night.
It was the third time in less than a month that someone took a deadly dive there.
“I am concerned that the Verrazzano Bridge is fast becoming the East Coast answer to the Golden Gate Bridge, which many have called a ‘suicide magnet,’” Brannan wrote. “That is why we desperately need the MTA to invest in a suicide-deterrent net. We must deter people from not only jumping, but also coming to the Verrazzano with suicide in mind.”
Brannan, who lives less than a mile from the bridge, said his “heart breaks” whenever he hears helicopters in the early morning or middle of the night because he knows it usually means someone has jumped off the bridge.
He said the bridge’s $19 toll – the most expensive in the nation – can “very easily” cover the cost of construction.
The fight for suicide barriers along the bridge is not new – at least not on the Staten Island side.
Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo (R-SI) has been pleading for the MTA to install them since 2015, but to no avail.
Instead, the agency’s answer to the long list of leapers has been installing additional security cameras and signs reading, “Life is worth living,” above a series of suicide-hotline phones along the bridge’s two decks.
“The grim reality is that suicides from the Verrazzano have become a regular occurrence, and we are too often witnesses to these tragedies as traffic is frequently backed up for miles in the aftermath,” Matteo told The Post. “These can be prevented if the MTA would do what many other agencies have done — or are planning to do — and what I have been imploring them to do for years: build a physical barrier.”
The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District expects to complete its $211 million suicide barrier project by 2021, which has been plagued by cost overruns. It will feature a 380,000-square-foot-net running 20 feet below the top deck on each side of the Golden Gate, where more than 1,700 are estimated to have taken their lives by jumping since opening 82 years ago.
MTA officials could not provide any estimates of how many people have jumped off the Verrazzano since its 1964 opening.
In September 2017, the Port Authority installed a temporary metal fence and netting system along the George Washington Bridge connecting Upper Manhattan to New Jersey following a wave of mass suicides earlier that year.
Unlike the Verrazzano, the Golden Gate and George Washington bridges have pedestrian pathways.
Leapers at the Verrazzano typically drive their car onto the bridge, park in traffic and then jump.
When asked about Brannan’s proposal, MTA Bridges and Tunnels spokesman Christopher McKniff said “suicide prevention continues to be an essential priority” for the agency.
“We have a robust plan in place at all of our bridges that includes closely monitoring roadways via [Closed Circuit TV] and patrol, and equipping our facilities with preventative measures such as suicide hotline phones,” he said. “We will review the letter and respond directly to the councilman.”
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