Centereach-- Veterans, children and elected officials gathered today on the 64th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, as State Senator John Flanagan (R- East Northport) and Assemblyman Steven Englebright (D- Setauket) formally dedicated the "Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge". Located on Nicoll’s Road at Middle Country Road in Centereach, the bridge is one of only two structures in New York State to receive a Pearl Harbor designation in State statute.
"Despite the passage of 64 years, the wounds from Pearl Harbor are still heavy in our hearts", said Senator Flanagan. "I am honored and humbled to be in the company of so many veterans, and to have the privilege of renaming this bridge in memory of those who died in the Pearl Harbor attacks. It is with deepest gratitude for their service that we honor all our veterans today, and dedicate this structure as a reminder of their loyalty and patriotism."
Assemblyman Steven Englebright said, "The sneak attack on Pearl Harbor taught us that our nation must never again be so trusting as to be caught unprepared at any of our military installations. For those who died at Pearl Harbor and those who served in the war that followed, we gather today to rededicate ourselves to the promise that their efforts and sacrifices will never be forgotten."
The dedication ceremony was held at the Jericho Elementary School, which sits on the northeast corner of the bridge interchange. From the rear of the school property, the bridge can be seen rising above the treetops. The school’s one hundred fifth graders joined veterans from Pearl Harbor, World War II, Korea and Vietnam to officially rename the bridge and to pay tribute to the more than 2,400 Americans who lost their lives in the attacks. Students read recollections of Pearl Harbor survivors, and helped lay a wreath adorned with red carnations in memory of those who died, followed by a moment of silence and the playing of "Taps".
Senator Flanagan and Assemblyman Englebright then invited Pearl Harbor survivor Howard Love and his great granddaughter Cassandra Freno to officially unveil the bridge sign.
The bridge at Nicoll’s Road and Middle Country Road is an architecturally unique structure known as a single point urban interchange or SPUI. A SPUI allows for an interchange between two roads with a single traffic light in the middle, thereby allowing concurrent left turns. This interchange is one of the most heavily trafficked in Suffolk County, experiencing an average volume of 116,000 vehicles a day. It was the bridge’s uniqueness that convinced Frank Belsito, Post Commander of the American Legion Pearl Harbor Memorial Post No. 1941 that it would make an ideal structure to be renamed in honor of those who died in the Pearl Harbor attacks. Looking to memorialize the designation through state law, Mr. Belsito pursued legislation first through Assemblyman Thomas Barraga (R- West Islip ) several years ago, and then in 2003 through Senator Flanagan and Assemblyman Englebright. After passing both houses of the New York State Legislature, the legislation was signed into law, and the bridge was formally renamed at today’s ceremony.
The NYS Department of Transportation recently installed two 3’ X 5’ green and white "Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge" signs on theMiddle Country Road sidewalks approachingthe bridge, and unveiled them while the ceremony was taking place. The signs can be seen by passing motorists traveling both east and west on Middle Country Road.
"The reconstructed Nicoll’s Road/ Middle Country Road interchange provides a vital link in Long Island’s transportation infrastructure", said Senator Flanagan. "But more importantly, this newly renamed bridge serves as a symbolic link between past and future generations of Long Islanders. The Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge pays tribute to our fallen heroes and reminds us of the many sacrifices our service men and women have made and continue to make to protect our freedom."