What’s in a name?

By Thomas M. Long & Herbert W. Stupp

The Jamaica Bay area has a number of public works named for notable New Yorkers who merit our remembrance. There is the bridge named for former Congressmember Joseph Addabbo, the Marine Park Bridge named for Mets and Dodgers hero Gil Hodges, and Floyd Bennett Field, which honors the famous Brooklyn aviator. And of course, there is JFK International Airport.

But there is a long-standing major omission in recognizing someone who has helped to change Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways for the better, and we urge that this be corrected.

The individual we are writing about is former U.S. Senator James L. Buckley.

Buckley was a co-sponsor of S.1192, creating the Gateway National Recreation Area. The senator spoke on behalf of the bill on the Senate floor on October 14, 1972, and specifically mentioned the “wildlife preserve in Jamaica Bay” during the floor debate.

Jamaica Bay is the only wildlife refuge within the U.S. National Parks System. We propose renaming the area the “James L. Buckley/Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.”
The bay and its wetlands, marshes and islands also represent “one of the most significant bird sanctuaries in the northeast United States,” according to the refuge’s web site.
Buckley continues his love and observation of birds at age 89.

As a candidate for U.S. Senate in 1970, Buckley questioned the wisdom of a proposed extension of a JFK airport runway into Jamaica Bay, supporting local community groups. Although Buckley was known for conservative views on most issues, many liberals and Democrats acknowledged his expertise in and support for environmental issues.

Buckley is the only living American to have served at the top levels of all three branches of the U.S. government. Aside from his election to the U.S. Senate, Buckley was Under Secretary of State, after which he served as President of Radio Free Europe. Then he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan and confirmed to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit — the second highest court in our judicial system.

Consider that New York’s former U.S. Senators have had major public works or other facilities named for them.

Senator Patrick Moynihan has the huge Manhattan federal office building named for him, with the new Penn Station to be called “Moynihan Station.” Senator Jacob Javits has the other immense federal building named for him, along with NYC’s primary convention center. Senator Al D’Amato has the federal courthouse on Long Island named for him, and the federal building in Rochester is named for former U.S. Senator Kenneth Keating. There are a number of schools bearing the name of Robert F. Kennedy, along with the recent renaming of the Triboro Bridge.

Clearly, it is time to honor and recognize the contributions of James L. Buckley to his nation.

Because of Buckley’s advocacy for the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and the Gateway National Recreation Area, this would be an ideal opportunity to recognize Buckley by renaming the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge for him.

Tom Long is a member of Community Board 14, serving the Rockaways and southern Queens. Herb Stupp was NYC Commissioner at the Department for the Aging from 1994 to 2002.

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