The pizzas are ready. Yilmaz Guz can’t wait to bring them across the river.
Guz (pictured) runs Apizza by Romano’s at 152 Ferry St. at the foot of the Ferry Street Bridge. For the past six years, his business has wilted in the shadow of the open drawbridge, which has cut off circulation to Fair Haven as repairs inched forward.
Guz was making pizzas Tuesday afternoon when he was told the latest word on the bridge: The structure is set to reopen in mid-August, according to city officials.
Guz was skeptical at first.
“Every year, they say it will open,” he said, wiping his brow from the heat of the oven.
Guz, who’s from Turkey, started working at the store seven years ago, when the rusty bridge still ferried cars and buses across the Quinnipiac River. After 60 years of service, the bridge was deemed unsafe in 2002 and has been closed ever since. Since taking charge of the store three years ago, Guz has longed for the chance to resume sending pies to the eastern banks of the river.
“Everything is harder, getting harder” since the bridge closed, Guz said. With that main artery of Fair Haven shut off, traffic has been diverted to Fair Haven’s nearest river crossing, the Grand Avenue Bridge. When that drawbridge turns to let boats go by, traffic can turn to gridlock.
The setup has been a deal-killer for deliveries, Guz said: When he tells them it may take up to an hour and a half to deliver the pies across the river, customers cancel their orders.
Unblocking Ferry Street will unlock a key passageway for him: “This is important for me,” he explained. “The next town over is East Haven. It is a beautiful town. I want to sell pizza there.”
Enthusiasm rippled up the river later Tuesday evening, when neighbors gathered on the breezy deck of the Waucoma Yacht Club for a monthly meeting of the Quinnipiac River Community Group. About 20 neighbors there got a visit from the city’s transportation czar, Mike Piscitelli (at right in photo, with Jeff Stahl).
Piscitelli remarked that it had been so long since he had visited the group that “everyone has a family now.” Indeed, two new babies had popped up in the crowd.
“That’s what happens when a bridge closes,” called out a voice from a deck chair.
The bridge repairs are being overseen by the state Department of Transportation. The contractor, Cianbro Corp. of Pittsfield, Maine, is running six months
As the river cooled off and white birds coasted across the marsh in the setting sun, neighbors applauded the news. They are plotting a party to celebrate the opening. “Nude jumping off the bridge!” one suggested.
After a round of applause for the bridge’s return, Piscitelli turned to another traffic concern: The revamping of Quinnipiac Avenue. He urged neighbors to lobby the state, specifically their state legislators, to make sure that the project doesn’t fall off the schedule as the state Local Roads program wraps up another year. He feared the project would get squeezed out by more pressing concerns, such as revamping the Grand Avenue Bridge and the Waite Street Bridge in Hamden.
“We have a real funding problem here,” said the transportation chief.
Neighborhood networks activated, the group adjourned for the evening. Young couples headed out for a walk.
Heather Findlay (pictured with newborn Cole), a bridge watchdog and neighborhood activist, has long awaited the day the Ferry Street Bridge opens and the speeding traffic eases up along Front Street.
She also awaits the day when she can stroll in a loop around the Q River, over one bridge and back on another.
“It’s been a long time coming,” she said.