New York News

New Bridge Still Honors Polish Past

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks at the grand opening event on the fully-opened Kosciuszko Bridge on the morning of Aug. 29. (Photo: Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

GREENPOINT — The Brooklyn-bound lanes of the Kosciuszko Bridge opened on Aug. 29, completing the new bridge, which has replaced the old Kosciuszko Bridge, a fixture on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway that’s notorious for its traffic jams.

The bridge was completed four years ahead of schedule. After five years, the $873 million nine-lane bridge replaces the original span, which was built in 1939. The Queensbound lanes of the new bridge have been open since April 2017.

The evening before the opening, Gov. Andrew Cuomo led a ceremony and photo-op for the occasion. The bridge linking Brooklyn and Queens is named for Polish Catholic and American Revolutionary War hero Tadeusz Kosciuszko.

Father Marek Sobczak, C.M., pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka, Greenpoint, is glad the bridge will continue to commemorate the sacrifices Kosciuszko and other Poles made to build America.

“We try to remember Polish people put a lot of energy and a lot of effort into building this country and keeping this country free,” Father Sobczak said. “Kosciuszko is one of them, and we are very proud of those people.”

According to the Manhattan-based Kosciuszko Foundation, Kosciuszko was “a prince of tolerance who stood up for the rights of European serfs, African slaves, Native-American Indians, Jews, women and all groups that were disenfranchised.”

Born to an aristocratic family in 1746, Kosciuszko attended school at the local church before he continued his studies at the Royal Military School in Warsaw.

He then went on to take advanced classes in Paris, becoming an expert in engineering and artillery. As Koscuiszko saw his country losing land to Russia, Prussia and Austria, he turned to the American Revolution. He crossed the Atlantic Ocean and enlisted in the Continental Army.

As colonel of engineers under General Horatio Gates’ command, Kosciuszko played a major role in the colonists’ victory at the Battle of Saratoga, which led to greater European support of the 13 colonies in their fight against Great Britain.

The young “Polish Son of Liberty” — as he is called by New York state’s Department of Transportation— is also known for designing the fortifications at West Point, now the site of the United States Military Academy. Koscuiszko is now known for the familiar bridge, and he will continue to be memorialized by a plaque on the bridge. His name on the plaque is flanked by a Polish eagle on one side and the American eagle on the other.

The bridge connects two neighborhoods known for being home to many people of Polish heritage — Greenpoint in Brooklyn and Maspeth in Queens.

“Every time you cross the bridge, you are reminded that this is a Polish hero, and if you’re of Polish origin, you feel proud of it,” Father Sobczak said.