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tv   Book Discussion on The Bridge  CSPAN  January 11, 2015 7:45pm-8:52pm EST

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lain sight peter examines the role of the government in the 2008 financial crisis. next a book at the design and construction of new york's verrazano-narrows bridge. completed in 1964 it is the longest suspension bridge in the united states and the sixth longest in the world. this is about an hour and five minutes. good evening, everybody. welcome to celebrating the verrazano-narrows bridge. a program with sam roberts and gate lee. i am director of the new york
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transit museum and it is my pleasure to welcome to distinguished audience and guest speakers. this is one of the many programs celebrating the 15th anniversary of the verrazano-narrows bridge. before i introduce the guest speakers i would like to encourage those who are not members of the transit museum to become a member tonight. if you join at the $65 level or above you will receive a copy of the "the bridge" which is a beautiful book and you can get it signed after the program. i would like to invite you to join us this surveillance transparency act -- saturday -- from 6-8 p.m. for the train show. the preview is a fundraiser for
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the museum and tickets can be acquired by going to the members table. we want to introduce you to two writers. sam roberts is urban affairs correspondent for new york times and is the host of close up which is an hour long interview program on new york one. he is the author or editor of eight previous book and his latest book is a history of new york and 101 objects is the story of the city told through 101 objects that span the history of new york. sam and gay's book will be on sale in front of the museum after the talk and both authors are here to sign books. gay talese is as a best-selling author who has written 11 book and was a reporter for the new
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york time and has written for times, esquire, new yorker harpers magazine and other pub publication. in the late fall of 1964 gay talese's remarkable book "the bridge," was published. and he followed the construction closely and on many occasions putting on a hard hat and joining the workers on the iron beams. he produced a produced a tribute to those who built it in an absorbing treatment which reminds us how man-mind structures affect lives. the new release of "the bridge" is pulling in a younger generation of leaders. he talks about the people and places he encountered four decades later and added an
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afterward bringing full circle the dramas that make the bridge extraordinary. i would like it turn it over to sam robert and gay talese. >> thank you all for coming out on this crumby night. the first night of winter i guess we could call it. it was november 21st 1964 that the verrazano-narrows bridge opened. it was the first and perhaps the only blissful traffic jam on the verrazano-narrows bridge. the toll was 50 cents. it was then the longest suspension bridge in the world. it is still the longest in the americas. gay talese produced more than a dozen articles on the bridge for "the new york times" and now the bridge is bookeds gabriel said he published by blooms berry in a beautiful new edition that i
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urge all of you to buy. now, one of the thinks people ask me a lot is how the stories get into the new york times. how do they appear at and i remember ralch bloomenthal a report for the new york times described the evolution of a particular story. he said an editor came up to him one day and said why don't you go out and find out who finds chinese restaurants in new york. -- who owns -- and he said what do you mean? he said go out take a couple week and find out what the ownership is. who owns them. and so ralph went out and he said he spent a couple weeks eating very well and he came back and discovered that chinese restaurants are owned mostly my chinese people.
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well when you began writing about the bridge and didn't know the name how did you get that assignment, volunteer or get stuck with it? what did you think when you first started writing the articles about a neighborhood in brooklyn that found 800 homes or businesses were being displaced by a bridge they didn't want. >> i was given the assignment to write about the protesting residents. it was a crowd, i guess, it would be akin to the occupy wall street mentality we had in the recent years. only those in the position toward robert moses who was the great builder of my early years in new york and a controversial
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man because he didn't mind breaking eggs to make omelets and sometimes he broke the hearts of people and many hundreds of hearts of people were broken who it was announced the forthcoming project, the verrazano-narrows bridge was going to be build, and what it meant, was hundreds of houses and thousands of people who lived in the pathway to the bridge in the bay ridge section of brooklyn would have to move. no negotiating. they had to get out. i covered this for the times and predictablely it was a series of people hating robert moses and many wondering who needs this bring as many said. and i thought i have never seen a bridge being built. i was covering this one-day
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story but i lived it as we all do in a city of bridges surrounded by bridges, and i was going to have the opportunity to see a bridge built from the lowest level of the water and something was going to come out of that water and a cement foundation and two towers would be there soon. i thought i am going to come back here. on my own time and when i had weekends off or whatever days i had when i wasn't required to be in the office as a general assignment reporter, i would go to the site of the bridge. little by little workman, cranes barges and men in hard hats were there statering the long four-year process emerging this sections of steel that would demonstrate what we see
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today; this great work of art that has the functioning capacity to get people from brooklyn to staten island that was never possible before. that the how it started. >> did you think it would wind up being a book? >> no i didn't think so. people sam roberts, or i as one of the elders still thinks i am a reporter and rebels in the youthful experience it is when you are a reporter. most reporters are young men and sam roberts was a young man. you think about doing one story, then a second and third and i was doing the stages of the bridge. the first stage was seeing the concrete foundation form and upon those foundations was the first staplings stages of the steel that formed the towers and
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each tower was equivalent to a seven-story skyscraper. it took a better part of a year to build these. and then the more interesting part to me how do you build horizontally section of steel that begin with cables. when i read the indians were building across a pond they would get a bow and arrow and shoot from one side to another and keep shooting the rope spareheaded by airrrows and that would be a rope bridge later on. 2.5 miles, two and a half miles was the distance from brooklyn to staten island on the towers. and it had to be done by cables and i watched the cables be sprung by wheels that were the size of a bicycle wheel.
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there were four of them going back and forth and it took months and months and from those cables that were bound together forming a great force of about two and a half feet. i know somebody in the room will tell me when we made the iron work and as part of the desert we have a young man who was an iron working and he will tell us about this. his grand father was one of the men who did this work. i wrote about the construction and then i thought there is book here and the reason there was i thought, is because it is a book about people. i didn't know then, and sometimes young people in the room might not think now, of how hard some people work. sometimes when people are negative about the united states and they think of this nation loosing jobs because people in foreign countries work harder
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and that is why jobs are outsourced that is not true. i saw this in 1962-1963 how hard the bridge and iron workers worked every day. and they take such pride in their work more important. i am the son of an immigrant taylor tailor. and i saw how he made the suits and he took pride in making them. he didn't sell too many because he took too long and too expensive and not american appreciated an hand-made suit. and my father with the spools down in the shop and pulled them down and sewed by hand. and these great spools creating what looks like a harp. it is beautifully designed.
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long before trucks and cars are making a fortune on a bridge there is a work of art. it is still a work of art. and i that this is an opportunity to write about how hard and how much pride there is in work well done. i saw that my father is making suit and i hundreds of guys who with different specialties as riveters and guys that did other things like holding the steel together, they brought not only pride but lasting pride because what they were doing would outlive them. and any work of art whether it is a musician's work of art, opera or a hit tune, or something who makes beautiful furniture or a beautiful thing like newspaper or bridge they are going to have pride in it in the longstanding and enduring talent and design that goes into
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a craft of lasting parishability. so i saw the bridge as an opportunity for me. i started doing piece and then i went to a book contract got a contract, not much and i wrote this book and it didn't sell very many copies but it did keep a record and the important thing to me we journalist are record keepers, and we try to record in our lifetime the history of what we see and understand. since we love new york we often write about the city. and whoever is writing about working class iron workers and how they built something that would outlive them. and i thought my using their names and stories in there i would do something that wasn't done with the brooklyn bridge or the george washington bridge who
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incidently the designer of the george washington bridge did the tunnel bridge. that was his last great final work of this great engineer's life. this book that was first published in '64 and is now being reissued is really a testimony to a work of art and a work that changed the economic rhythms of the city. ...
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>> >> you once described herself as an outsider as the son of an italian immigrant in there for you identified with the neighbors who were displaced and also of the ironworkers. but he wasn't very gracious. [laughter] and i guess as the elitist
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mentality. and so the workers were within his range of interest. but that doesn't mean their work will not live forever. look at the brooklyn bridge is been there more than 100 years. also i don't think they needed moses may avoid the most enduring of what i got to know and i continued tuesday in touch with them. some of them are older than i am i have little enough to see the 50th anniversary but also i know it least 25 men who were close to my age
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who were young in 1960 to even now they will drive across the bridge and pay $15 like the rest of us but they still think one day i put five frigates in that thing. it is a wonderful memory with your last years on earth to see what you did when you were young and how was still stands with police and craftsmanship and pride. having pride in your work. >> you describe them as part gypsy and graceful in the air. what do you mean by that? >> into tears told me because of the weather but how would i know that?
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but this deal freezes and there are times i have heard according to 500 feet working on cables with that early stage when the cables connected to the foundation on the brooklyn side and the staten island side and though with and what effect their balance. in so many don't survive without serious injuries. in those who now are like some of those athletes with any kind of player who has injuries into their final days when they were performing.
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like circus workers. looking at the window washers but those to do that kind of work. and my boss says let me do a history of wonder what -- window washers. we almost saw the danger realized yesterday. as we see that same building were all so heroic people looking at 9/11 is sometimes
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of the everett the -- everyday life of window washers or people working on high altitudes we see the miracle city but with opinions of people that wash the windows. so much technology is still a part of our society. in those bridge builders but how much of that work is done by hand. think of the machinery and technology that goes into
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the design and the construction how much is passing a piece of steel how much was on a couple of individuals. >> that's true. >> or wander to window washers on the scaffolding. what about the mohawk indians? >> there is a chapter or maybe more about some ironworkers that i met who had apartments in brooklyn but would also visit their wives and children not far from montreal. the way i went around interviewing these people i would hate out during the day but then at night i would go to the bar with
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them. i did a lot of happy drinking. [laughter] so with the indians i got too well pretty well one his father was an ironworker that is typical of people it is a family tradition sometimes it'll go back for generations it you can see it today. the one time to say come to the reservation and so one friday night after the work was done. and then to liquor them up in the ironworkers. it took four hours or more
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to get to this place at the st. lawrence river. i spent pieces of early monday morning those you were fired workers to those with injuries there were not the first but the second generation of ironworkers build the bridges across the st. lawrence river. but there was the bridge of no significance. and that is how they started working first-ever given menial task but then when they were notched watched carefully they would walk across in the superintendent
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there would go across the narrow beams so they were given jobs as part of the tradition. so on this occasion he said wider you sleep with my sister. [laughter] what else? [laughter] >> the question i always wanted to ask you. [laughter] slipping around on the bridge that the tops of the towers are one and 5/8 inches farther apart at the top to account for the
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curvature of the earth. what we wearing? >> i have been asked that other situations i dressed as i am now. being the son of a taylor might close are constantly made for me. my father didn't sell many things but to see his work on display. and i was not very popular because i had a fedora somebody would not get off. and i held up to that. my clothes were made by my father and those who worked in other cities but also paris.
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with other later worked as the princess of 1920. this suit that i have on now was made about 15 years ago. i have 60 or 70 suits made by these cousins of mine in paris. they're so beautifully made like my father's standards. this is a pinstripe brown suit but the stripes are measured so precisely just like the bridge. with the precision but those
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cables and every both is the standards of tailoring. that is one of the underlying attraction is that i found that they have the touch of a tailor you see those cables. in the brooklyn bridge was another example. >> but to chronicle the tappan zee bridge d.c. parallels or differences between that? >> i know joe is an excellent reporter. it is a work of art and the george washington bridge is beautiful.
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and i think up to think what a great sign this is. it will be a work of art. >> talk about how your work as a reporter. >> i will say one more thing. when i go out to interview and hire workers over street sweepers or window washers i never dress down i always dress up one is because of
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the pride in my father's work in the week through the stitching but also i take great pride to be a journalist i thought of his dressing up for this story. if i go and where a hard hat, like i did, always but i didn't want to dress like a working man because i thought it would be dishonorable to dress up for this story. i do think going to a ceremonial wedding or a funeral we dress up. when we go to a funeral we see the casket and the person is dressed up. i could never understand why
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we you go to see people or interview people it could be robert moses or a hard-nosed murphy that you should dress up. and i believe the dressing up for people pays respect to them. and to the story into the profession while journalists especially by governments to have within this year of operation. with a politician's with people in business and wall
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street and know that sam does not have free suits from a tailored family but he still dresses well. [laughter] the journalist who do not come at i feel that i want to lecture them. i can get away with it at my age. i'd to lecture them. >> he said you didn't do very well as school but you did well at curiosity. this small story was more worth than the big one and it is not a small story. this unit there is no small stories if you take your time it is very important
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but what is equally important is patience. in to spend time with them to understand is a you can describe what they do. even bankers say increase. the wonderment of our career it doesn't mean they have not ended because they haven't. those stories are over. singh has written of beautiful book got this and our city changes every day. we have references to the
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past long before bridge builders there indians indians in manhattan. and they are there but our life is dealing with tradition and change and the glory of our work is to justice to people writing about. giving full bayou to the opportunity to write about. >> there was so wonderful'' in the lobby of "the new york times" building who was the first member who owned "the new york times" everydays said new beginning as the world made new and to
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come into work every morning and you rediscover the world as a journalist or as a newspaper people we're blessed with the opportunity for postgraduate education every day. you just don't know where you will discover or where your curiosity will be deal. one of the most famous essays ever trying to interview frank sinatra he wrote to a whole story about sinatra interviewing freaks sinatra and a lot of other journalists may have walked away to said there was no story i could not find it but instead he said frank sinatra had a cold and it
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was a whole story of not being able to interview him in the people around him were protecting him. >> let me introduce a third generation ironworker. [applause] , joe's grandfather is in the book, he worked on the verrazano bridge and also the new world trade center and you say the new one is a lot safer than the old one? >> i cannot speak of the original twin towers but everybody took a lot of pride to build that building everybody is proud to work on that. >> will reduce say i knew his grandfather he is one who helped it he is the
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grandson of a guy that i knew. i did not know him and tell this year. >> there was a wonderful line the new york skyline is like the family tree for iron workers because so many go into the same profession. and somebody else was quoted as saying he would become an iron worker as a hobby. why would you do that? it is definitely a special trade third generation, a fourth generation if you get the chance if you get a shot and you work with them if you are built to do what it is like nothing else that is why somebody would do it without taking a paycheck.
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>> if you are built to do with. i am a klutz you said you could teach me in two weeks? >> i may have been joking around. [laughter] but if it is definitely the first time on the job they will not do that if you were not ready. i think some people can handle it and some can't but we're trained to very well highly trained and certified it everything said they are in tune in the beginning
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like is the highest form of ironworkers and if you are a new guy i got yelled that for over one year straight per gram was really hard but you either have it or you don't. >> would you want your kids to be fired workers? >> yes. definitely a. >>. >> i have only been in the business about five years for i was sent to the world trade center to start.
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a with said that to tell where one then to the end of the job it was pretty simple the units come on a truck. i don't know the whole story that they look good when i was there. [laughter] >> you wrote the three ironworkers lost their lives building the verrazano-narrows bridge and what impact did that have on the other iron workers? >> the impact as i described them in the book was as a result of the ironworkers of manhattan but somewhere
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around 1963 after the deaths the leader, at that time a guide named ray court you can look at park avenue between 31st and 302nd street on the east side of park avenue south. that is the headquarters of with 1300 other people belong to. on top of the empire state building did the same thing with the world trade center. but in 1963 when work was continuing there raising sections of steel to the horizontal roadway in the
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management said it would impede the progress as the barges are flooding all the way down the hudson with these chunks of steel each is about the size of a ranch house those that would form the structure of the roadway today. management wouldn't so they went on strike. they finally did but it didn't impede progress but a guy named robert walsh who is in the core of the building, he is dead now he fell into the nets both
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times if he did not fall into those you would not be running it today. it is a good thing to have nets. did you ever fall? >> no. i never felt thank god. >> is is safer now than 50 years ago? to read there is more safety restrictions there are some better almost done have seen the change drastically where they had to adjust it is the new safety stuff and it is welcome to a new degree but they don't say you have it easy? been made you hear that but safety is there for a reason but to think we're trained and skilled for reason. >> you reach a certain age?
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in they have done that already but some are older you would be surprised some will turn to welding. >> what kind of work do they do? the tappan zee bridges the first new bridge to be built since the. >> host: team. what have they done since? >> with those structural iron workers in the high-rises throw out the burroughs to replace the steel renovation jobs in manhattan. the company i with right now
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has made and work right now on a the verrazano but i don't know the details. now i am working at staten island with the shipyard. i just guarded today. we're taking in six new greens. -- cranes we take them off the ship then build them in place. that is good news for the port. end then to get the new ship >>. >>.
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>> the man who designed both of verrazano and the george washington bridge of the 1930's i did meet him in an interview him. he lived very well. he had a penthouse apartment from 763. i interviewed him there it did tickly how where i could go to the verrazano bridget i concede that george washington bridge. indeed is the premiere designer but there is so little bridge with the east 80's a little foot bridge.
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have you seen it? around 80 something street. it is the footbridge. >> [inaudible] >> the question that is in debate, that with someone from the authority of should talk about that. and there should be a bicycle or pedestrian path path, i don't know but that was not his thought. in those days bicycle riders
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did not have the political route -- clout that they have today. that he is a very modest man it is great precision. with the curvature of those two towers. >> he was in the 18th part of the motorcade, how did that happen? >> the bridge opened november 22nd 1964, all the politicians there are brighter -- mayor wagner
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their riding in the 18th car and when robert moses made a speech on the staten island side with all did dignitaries and the ribbon cutting, he did not even mention his name like he did not even invite the ironworkers. of course, did he vote about the power broker he was not a villainous character but he did good things. the power behind the construction of great bridges but that was the
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case of the people who lived in the late 1950's their lives had to be paved over because the bridge had to rebuild the question. it is almost like people are victims in a time of 42 knockout property. destroy property. that happened in the case of the verrazano but those this -- knows this -- moses had a different guy you system and his father was right. but moses did more than he did terrible things. >> and that backlash with moses that led to is said to
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my is with the brooklyn expressway with the defeat in the simple projects like that. >> [inaudible] >> what is a hell dog? >> i had very close relationships i had respect for them and they had respect for me. i did go as high as they did in the early stages. i did not walk in the catwalk. not only i did that but of a
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woman in her late seventies or early 60s seven you will notice there was a sketch artist, in industrial illustrator. and her work is magnificent as a renaissance artist who happened to be around and was a friend of robert moses then also there was a photographer whose photography is well known now but wasn't in 62. he was up there so we have the work of david and the magnificent work which to of the engineer himself. we got to know lot of nice
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people. >> [inaudible] >> have joe's grandfather be inspired him to become an iron worker. i did know my grandfather. i appreciate the question he died when i was in rare of the teens but we did see him often. i know about him when he and my cousins would misbehave he would shake and we knew he was coming. [laughter] my father and my local are all the ironworkers i was young that the time but i know they used to hang out and talk about it but what
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i've learned is how to be a man, how to be a good man it did inspire me to want to get into the business. also thank you to gay talese for reaching out to me because he asked for informational my grandfather and to learn more about him through my eighth aunt who is here tonight i really didn't know so that really helped me to discover pitchers of my father had with local and my grandfather. >> if you were not an iron worker what do you thank you would have done? >> i wanted to be a forum in. [laughter] >> a good answer. >> a little bit about the
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physical the you were saying you were an athlete in high school? football? you had one year of college but. >> another thing is being competitive they always wanted to beat each other you don't want anybody to show you up like growing up playing sports you always want to win. i think was a pretty good athlete growing up which translated to the business i guess. >> [inaudible]
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>> the question had to do with tunnels and did i ever had interest? the answer is yes. i wrote about them. i met a man who as window washers we were worried about yesterday though lincoln tunnel had a man who took pride to cleave the tunnel one night around for the morning it was like the vehicle of the window washers we sought in the perilous situation yesterday. this would cling to the side of the walls of the tunnel
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tunnel, led the tiles in road along the tiles in peabody wiping in washing the tiles with mops from one end to the other. i spent a whole might with him and when it was finished he looked at it with a sense of pride if he had to do it twice a week. i thought jesus. that is a hard way to make a living but he liked it. but they are magical. you have to fight with the fish and make your space and round it out with walls to make it safe to drive through and get into traffic jams. >> [inaudible]
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>> the question is what are the actual physical tasks that an iron worker engages in? it applies strength but what do apply that to? >> there is one being physically fit is a huge help. and it depends on the job. some days you lift the lot some days you climb a lot or some higher juror swinging a lot some days you have a hell dog you are busting with its. it is the very powerful tool
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it has the big air power punch it is strong and hold it takes them now. with its have been replaced by bolts. >> what is the difference? >> with the rivets they would he did applicable to head in the oven throw it to the guy then punch it is and though whole then match them together and that was it now we use the net and a bolt. but you are in awkward positions you're on the iron ore in a weird spot doing things. >> [inaudible]
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>> yes. this job can never be replaced by computers is is a for? definitely but to a degree if you are setting higher there is only so many ways to do it. it will not change that much there are people up there getting the job done. >> to more questions. >> [inaudible] >> could the bridge have been put anywhere else to cause less displacement? >> mark? can you answer? >> you don't know either?
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not to put you on the spot. >> the point at which the bridge is located on each side is the narrowest point so it made sense for the world's longest crossing to be the narrowest point there was consideration to doing the offshore routes for the approach to the bridge but that would have been on piers parallel to the brooklyn shore but that would have been expensive and the authority would not have been able to raise the funds for that type of project. >> interestingly the tappan zee bridge was built at the widest point of the hudson river. the reason why is to keep it out of the jurisdiction of
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the port authority that has jurisdiction for 50 miles from the statute -- statue of liberty through the middle of new york city so that ended at tarrytown and that is where they built the bridge which is why the replacement bridge is so expensive today. >> [inaudible] >> after i finish the story in 64 when the book came out 50 years later i amassed what is the difference between 64 and 2014 with
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curiosity and experience? i don't think there was much that i saw in terms of 50 years of historical terms of a half century how the pride of the work into word to save the average celebrate its 50th anniversary. those men be we for real and with age or showing some of the lacerations from this deal hitting them here or there but pride when we first met them in the 1960's
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they had this identity with what they had done. i love that. if joe's grandfather had survived, i seek there be a pretty good guess and he would testify to the fact that they are part of the bridge and share with the bridge, insurance -- insurance in that it is so beautiful. in time of the renaissance those labors or the coliseum but they did something with the hereafter.
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it is finished and it goes on and on or they still look with wonderment at this bridge is as young now as it was. the rest of us has aged but what did not ages the glory and achievement. >> thank you. [applause] and they will be happy to sign copies of "the bridge". [inaudible conversations]
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in new york side speaking at the riverside church giving a speech called beyond vietnam. and kane calls america of the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today. he was on record to be opposed to this is the first time he gives a major address to condemn the war. and he lays out in detail our relationship with vietnam one of the rare times king reads the entire text he was an orator and to go off the script and would freestyle so he was good of script i'd like some people who has to use the


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