Spanning the Hudson – and the Spectrum

Photo: Jeffrey Friedkin

Whether you call it the Tappan Zee or the Governor Mario M. Cuomo bridge, the busy, cable-stayed connection across the Hudson running between Tarrytown and Nyack remains one of the most beloved and celebrated features of the River Towns. 

And that pleasure is enhanced by the lights which illuminate the bridge each night, sometimes following a planned schedule, at others surprising us with acknowledgements of important causes or moments, and lovely color combinations. 

So, who decides about the bridge lights? 

It turns out that the New York State Thruway Authority’s Office of Media Relations and Communications coordinates lighting requests with its executive staff, often working with other state landmarks for a consistent, statewide approach to honor holidays and occasions. 

Photo: Darren McGee-Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

The twin-span crossing’s architectural features are lit using energy-efficient LED fixtures and the bridge is lit typically in white. On some nights, however, colors are used to commemorate important causes or moments. Lightings for major holidays are pre-programmed, as readers can see by clicking on links at the website below. The calendar is quite full and diverse in various ways. First days of each season are marked, as are, for example, President Lincoln’s birthday, Valentine’s Day and Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. 

Photo: Jonathan Kamensky

Other lightings are the result of special requests by nonprofits, community organizations, municipalities, and school districts. There are times when the bridge uses its lights in conjunction with landmarks across New York State, as announced by the Governor’s Office. The website offers a public request application with guidelines, including space for color preferences, both eastbound and westbound. The Authority ask for 60 days’ notice for any request. 

Given the specific geographic location of the bridge itself, priority is given, when considering lighting, to supporting causes that are important to the “landing communities” and the Hudson Valley at large. For example, the bridge is lit in red and white for the Sleepy Hollow and Nyack High School graduations (scheduled for June 23 this year). On Sept. 24, it is scheduled to shine green and white when Irvington celebrates its 150th anniversary. Over the years, the bridge has also supported any number of Westchester and Rockland nonprofits. Just this April and May, it will have lit up in support of Volunteer New York!, NAMI Westchester, and Make a Wish Hudson Valley. 

Photo: Andrea Saposnik

Other recent memorable choices include lighting in blue for health care workers at the start of the pandemic, showing solidarity with Ukraine by lighting in the colors of its flag (blue and yellow) in February and March, and annual lightings for the LGBTQ+ and transgender communities. 

“In just a few short years, the nightly lighting of the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge has become a Hudson Valley tradition,” said Khurram Saeed, the Thruway Authority’s public information officer. “Its aesthetic lights illuminate the span’s architectural features and, on occasion, mark notable or impactful moments by bathing the three-mile twin span in color. We are proud that the bridge has helped ‘shine a light’ on so many important causes.” 




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About the Author: Elsbeth Lindner