News Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.
A little more than a year ago, Putnam Valley residents and officials celebrated the long-awaited opening of the Pudding Street overpass that allows traffic to safely cross the Taconic State Parkway.
Last Friday morning, many of the same people gathered near the site to honor the men and women who serve to keep people in the town and Putnam County safe.
Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R-Mahopac) was joined by an assortment of officials and volunteer firefighters, ambulance corps members and police to dedicate the overpass as the Putnam Valley First Responders Bridge. Byrne and state Sen. Sue Serino (R-Hyde Park) introduced a bill and saw legislation approved last session in Albany to recognize the emergency service workers.
“When discussing the naming of this bridge, nothing seemed more fitting than naming it after our first responders because a bridge is a term of connecting and that is what our first responders do daily, they connect with us, the residents of the community,” said Putnam Valley Supervisor Jackie Annabi.
The overpass, which opened in August 2021 after nearly two years of construction, cost about $28 million. Its completion came after more than 20 years since it was first discussed, Byrne said. Former congresswoman Sue Kelly, who has been out of office for more than 15 years, was one of the first officials to bring back money for the project.
Others on hand said many representatives at every level of government were able to work together to make sure the project got done. However, Kenny Clair, the commissioner of Putnam County’s Bureau of Emergency Services, said as important as the bridge is to the safety of area residents and motorists, he and others had their doubts whether it would ever be completed.
Now that it has, they are thrilled that the first responders are being recognized, he said.
“What a great honor to name it after Putnam Valley first responders,” Clair said. “The men and women behind me is what volunteerism is all about. Day and night, seven days a week, these gentlemen and ladies, whether it’s fire or EMS, are out there doing their job.”
Byrne, who was raised in Putnam Valley, said he remembers riding his bicycle across the four lanes of speeding traffic to reach his siblings who worked in the Roaring Brook Lake community as summer lifeguards when he was young. Most of the time a pedestrian would only be able to make it to the median between the northbound and southbound lanes before they would have to stop.
“If you did that today before this bridge was built, you were insane. It was absolutely crazy,” Byrne said.
What was also problematic before the construction of the overpass was the more than 100 Putnam Valley School District students whose buses would have to make the same crossing on a daily basis. Putnam Valley Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeremy Luft, a Putnam Valley native, said as a child he wasn’t allowed to have friends on the other side of the parkway.
Serino recalled once riding a bus through the intersection, to experience how critical a bridge would be. She called it “one of the scariest things I think I’ve ever done.”
Putnam County Sheriff Kevin McConville said the Pudding Street overpass is an example of what can be accomplished when everyone works together.
“Each and every time, you come near it, you should be thankful and remember the sacrifices the volunteers make on a daily basis, and this helps law enforcement in ways that are countless for us to recall,” McConville said.