City politicians past and present have come out in support of renaming the Queensboro Bridge in Long Island City after former Mayor Ed Koch, but City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said the bridge’s current name is too significant to be changed.
“Mayor Ed Koch is truly a great man and deserving of an honor like this, but renaming a landmark so closely linked to our borough’s culture and history is not appropriate,” Vallone said in a statement released last week.
The drive to rename the bridge — known across the East River as the 59th Street Bridge because it connects 59th Street in Manhattan with Queens Plaza in Long Island City — after the city’s 105th mayor began with its current one. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced at a Dec. 8 early birthday party for Koch that he wanted to change the name to the “Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge,” which would require the passage of a local law.
Koch, who is 86, served as mayor from 1978 to 1989.
Bloomberg’s office said the cost to change the signs would be covered by the privately financed Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.
Vallone, who had been silent on the renaming, took issue with the plan last week. He suggested renaming the mayor’s residence, Gracie Mansion, the Gracie-Koch Mansion instead.
“The city would not rename the Brooklyn Bridge and the Queensboro Bridge should be treated equally,” Vallone said.
The Queensboro Bridge has been featured in the background of numerous films and television shows and was the inspiration for the name of a Simon & Garfunkel song: “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy).” It is also mentioned in the novel “The Great Gatsby,” in which narrator Nick Carraway says, “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.”
The Council held a hearing on changing the bridge’s name Friday. At the hearing, 12 to 15 people gave testimony, most of whom had worked with Ed Koch. Of those who testified, only one said he was not in favor of changing the name.
One former Queens politician who disagrees with the councilman’s stand against the name change is his father, former Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. In an interview with TimesLedger Newspapers soon after Bloomberg’s plan was announced, Vallone Sr. said he considered both the bridge and Koch “the spirit of the city.”
“It’s a workhorse bridge and he’s been a workhorse all his life,” Vallone said of Koch.
Koch himself recently told The New York Times it was the Council’s decision.
“It’s a decision for every member of the City Council to make on their own,” Koch said to the Times. “If they support the change, I’ll be very grateful and very honored. If they don’t, it won’t be the end of my life.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cn
©2011 Community News Group
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