by Kevin Walsh

The seal of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority appears on a large plaque on Battery Place at the mouth of the Brooklyn-Battery, or Hugh Carey, Tunnel. I do not know when the seal was designed, but it appears to depict the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge. Also included is wrought metalwork depicting tunnels beneath waves suggesting water.

The owl is a universal symbol symbolizing intelligence and wisdom, while the beaver symbolizes industriousness; the beaver can also be considered a symbol of NYC, since early Dutch traders trafficked in beaver pelts. Even after the colonial era, John Jacob Astor made his massive fortune in such trade, and ceramic beavers were placed in the subway station uptown named for Astor Place.

The Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority has been around since 1946 and administers all tolled bridges and tunnels in, and connecting to, New York City. It was formed in 1940 when several disparate agencies, controlling several different structures,  merged into one. NYC traffic czar Robert Moses was its chairman for the first couple of decades of its existence. In addition to bridges and tunnels, the Authority also constructed the Brooklyn Battery Parking Garage and the now-razed New York Coliseum.

In 1968, the TBTA became an agency of the NY Metropolitan Transit Authority. Subsequently, moneys collected via tolls have contributed to the upkeep of NYC’s transit network: subways, buses, Long Island Rail Road and Metro North Railroad. Officially the agency is now called MTA Bridges and Tunnels.



John April 2, 2014 - 1:20 pm

The beaver is also a symbol of engineering. The beaver because he is natures engineer in the design and construction dams with living quarters like a tunnel within it which includes a ventilation system.

Julian April 2, 2014 - 2:14 pm

Again, the Staten Island Ferry is not part of the MTA and does not get money from tolls at MTA bridges or tunnels. The ferry is part of the NYC DOT and is funded through the City’s budget.

Jerry April 2, 2014 - 7:05 pm

The representation is of the Whitestone Bridge. The tell tales are the small arches at the top which depict the tower vents which exist in the actual bridge.

Velvethead April 8, 2014 - 12:22 pm

The Coliseum had similar plaques on it’s facade. I would hope they were saved.

Bruce Einsohn April 8, 2014 - 1:23 pm

These plaques were originally placed on the facade of the now demolished New York Coliseum ( itself a TBTA facility) when the building opened in 1956, or shortly thereafter.
They were designed by the sculptor Paul Manship, who is probably best known in New York for his statue of Prometheus above the skating rink in Rockefeller Center.

shamagr April 8, 2014 - 10:22 pm

this reminds me along with the forest hills shot of an imperial sodom even what sodom was at least until 1968 then THEN in 1972 the pussillaminous pipsqueaks from the NASSAU county planning commission rebuffed robert moses great and daring plan for the RYE OYSTER BAY BRIDGE instead these STOOGES SUCCUMBED TO THE SIREN SONGS of the post menupasual slut who HATED CARS jane jacobs and the GERIATRIC WEASEL robert caro who still lives in SODOM on 95 th street and works part time for the NOXIOUS N.Y. TIMES a paper i reserve for the PARAKEET CAGE. NO WONDER THE METRIO N.Y.C. AREA IS THE INFRASTRUCTURAL TOILET BOWL OF AMERICA. I ASKED THE SYNCOPHANT AT THE WHOREHOUSE IN MORNINGSIDE HTS. when was the last time the STUPID STATE of n.y. even built a major monumental bridge ?! need a hint? go back to the first world tour of the BEATLES AT SHEA STADIUM!

Kevin April 9, 2014 - 3:52 pm

Slight clarification: the TBTA has always been responsible for the bridges and tunnels connecting the 5 boroughs (since its’ inception). Bridges and tunnels that connect the NYC boroughs to the rest of the world are the responsibility of the Port Authority.


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