A Visit from the Past Original Tappan Zee Engineer Visits New NY Bridge Project

September 16, 2014

The New NY Bridge Rockland Community Outreach Center welcomed a surprising visitor earlier this month: an engineer from the original Tappan Zee Bridge construction team. Jerry Sondack was in his late 20s when he helped build the existing bridge more than half a century ago. Now, as the replacement bridge rises out of the Hudson River, the 90-year-old World War II veteran stopped by to learn how the new structure is being engineered to meet the needs of the growing region.

As a young man living in New York City in the 1950s, Sondack heard about the Thruway’s plans for a new bridge and was eager to contribute. He approached engineers from Madigan-Hyland, the engineering firm that built the Tappan Zee Bridge, asking how he could get involved.

Eventually, Sondack was engaged full time on the project. One of the many former military men who worked on construction of the Tappan Zee, he says their experience in America’s armed forces helped foster a safe and efficient working environment amid the immense construction equipment and materials.

Sondack’s day-to-day activities included surveying the Tappan Zee Bridge’s caissons, which are hollow concrete bases that support much of the bridge.

Now, as the region’s growing population increases demands on the aging Tappan Zee Bridge, Sondack told project officials, “[Rockland] county needs a bridge of greater capacity; the old bridge won’t be able to handle this in the future. We need a new bridge that will sustain the flow of people into Rockland in the years ahead.”

Sondack observed the scale of the New NY Bridge project evokes the project he worked on all those years ago. “When you take on a project this grand, the amount of coordination and tight-knit supervision is extraordinary,” he noted.

Sondack’s work on the landmark Tappan Zee Bridge project boosted his career, helping him land future jobs and pursue other business opportunities. After the project’s completion, he settled in the Spring Valley area of Rockland County for over a decade. Now as a retiree, he looks forward to crossing the new bridge when the first span opens in 2016.

The New NY Bridge Community Outreach Centers in Westchester and Rockland counties are open seven days a week. For locations and hours, visit NewNYBridge.com/contac

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