NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – What’s old will soon be new again.
Pieces of the old Tappan Zee Bridge will be recycled and reused. As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, instead of going over water, it will go under water.
Like other states, New York is now expanding its artificial reefs.
“Is there a bridge heaven? Well, there is a bridge heaven. Bridge heaven is you spend all your life above the water, serving people. And then you to go to bridge heaven, which is you go below the water,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.
Beginning in May, 33 barges loaded with Tappan Zee Bridge concrete, steel and rock will sink their contents into the Long Island Sound and ocean. Thirty old vessels will also drop to the bottom, expanding six reef sites around Long Island.
It might sound like dumping, but environmental groups are on board.
“We are going to clean up the garbage first, and then we are going to put it in the water, and the critters who live there are going to love it, said Dick Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society. “It is a very, very responsible re-use approach.”
“There is a lot of science on this, and really creating reef structures brings back fin fish populations, diversity,” Adrienne Esposito, of the Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, said.
Thousands of subway cars avoided the trash heap this way 15 years ago, but expansion stalled in New York State bureaucracy. Now, new colonies may swarm to our coastlines, like bass, cod, flounder, even dolphins and whales.
One critic Gusoff heard from, the head of the advocacy group New York Fish, said it’s a cheap way for New York to get rid of its garbage without addressing the biggest hurdle to fishing – unfair federal quotas.
But charter boat captains say they can taste hope.
“A step in the right direction to hopefully catch more fish,” said Captree Star captain Charlie Buser.
The bridge parts and sunken boats will be stripped of containments with DEC and U.S. Coast Guard inspecting.
“The bridge was painted many times over the past 100 years, and I was thinking there was lead paint, but we were assured that none of that structure that has been painted is going to be put in,” Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta said.
The cost of recyclying the bridge this way is $5 million. The gains to the Long Island economy? Fisherman hope it will give back for decades.
The work on the six reefs is expected to be done this summer.