By Rebecca Henely
Despite disapproval from a large number of Queensites, members of the City Council overwhelmingly voted 38-12 last week to rename the Queensboro Bridge the Ed Koch-Queensboro Bridge after the city’s 105th mayor.
The name change was done through a local law proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a Dec. 8 birthday party for Koch at Gracie Mansion. Koch turned 86 Dec. 12. Bloomberg suggested the name change to honor Koch’s work in rehabilitating the bridge during his tenure as mayor, when he created the Bureau of Bridges in the city Department of Transportation.
“He literally saved this bridge and began the process of reinvesting in then-crumbling bridges across the city,” Bloomberg said in a statement.
The decision has not been popular in Queens, which the bridge connects to Manhattan via Queens Plaza in Long Island City and 59th Street in Manhattan, where it is known – not surprisingly – as the 59th Street Bridge. A Quinnipiac University poll released March 18 revealed 70 percent of Queens residents opposed renaming the bridge as did 64 percent of residents on the other side of the East River.
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) protested the name change in February, saying that while Koch was deserving of the honor, the current name was linked to the borough’s culture.
“The city would not rename the Brooklyn Bridge and the Queensboro Bridge should be treated equally,” Vallone said in a statement.
Nevertheless, most of the city’s 15 Council members with districts in Queens voted for the change. Those who voted against it included Vallone, Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), whose district includes the bridge area.
“I greatly admire Mayor Koch, and I believe he deserves tribute. But leave my borough’s bridge alone,” Halloran said in a statement.
Halloran also objected to the money that would be spent to change the signs. Bloomberg said earlier it would come out of the privately financed Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.
But Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) spoke in favor of the change, saying he made the decision after hearing the testimony of former Borough President Claire Schulman and Robert Tierney, chairman of the city Landmarks Preservation Commission, who supported the renaming. Dromm said Tierney claimed the new name would enhance the bridge’s history.
“After much soul-searching and recognizing that the bridge is also already known colloquially as the 59th Street Bridge, I have decided to vote in favor of the compromise name of ‘Ed Koch-Queensboro Bridge,’ which protects the bridge’s legacy and also recognizes Koch’s contributions to our great borough and city,” Dromm said in a statement.
David Barna, spokesman for the National Park Service, said changing the name would not affect the bridge’s place on the National Register of Historic Places.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.