Opinions Come Forth About Naming The New NY Bridge

Feb 23, 2016

With the new Tappan Zee Bridge now about two years from completion, talk continues about what the bridge will be called. One Hudson Valley assemblyman wants to see it named in honor of veterans while others prefer it pays respect to a late governor.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo rallied in Rockland County Monday for paid family leave and, in his opening remarks, he mentioned an unrelated topic.

“We came across that Tappan Zee Bridge coming from Westchester just now and to see it rising from the river after decades of talking about that bridge,” Cuomo said. “There was more conversation about that bridge and now to see it actually happening.”

And conversation continues about the bridge that connects Rockland and Westchester Counties on a few fronts, including its name. The subject arose when President Obama visited Westchester County in May 2014, praising Cuomo and area congressional representatives for making the replacement bridge possible.

“Thanks to their outstanding efforts, workers are building a replacement – the first new bridge in New York in 50 years,” Obama said.  “It’s called the New New York Bridge, which is fine as  a name, but for your next bridge you should come up with something a little more fresh.”

Some lawmakers have come up with something. Republican Assemblyman Kieran Lalor says the bridge should be named the “Sergeant Joseph Lemm - Post-9/11 Veterans Memorial Bridge” to honor the men and women who have protected the country since 9/11. Lemm is the New York City Police Detective and Air National Guardsman from Westchester County who was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in December. He was a 15-year veteran of the New York Police Department who was on the job during the 9/11 attacks. Lalor says he has received lots of feedback on the name. Some people do not feel one veteran should be singled out but do like the Post-9/11 Veterans Memorial Bridge part. Lalor explains why he does single out Lemm.

“I think having an individual helps to kind of get, make things real and concrete to people, so you could...” Lalor says. “Yes, he represents a whole generation of first responders and military people. So others are affected by his name plus the second part of the name, the Post-9/11.”

Lalor says naming the bridge in honor of veterans is appropriate for a region that houses Camp Smith, also in Westchester County, and West Point, in Orange County.

“The other half of the feedback that I get is, no more politicians. I couldn’t agree more,” Lalor says. “Nobody wants it named after a politician.”

Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey does, though points out her respect for Sergeant Lemm, noting she took Lemm’s widow as her guest to Obama’s State of the Union address in January.

“I do think that he can be honored and should be honored and all those who gave their lives should be honored in so many different ways,” says Lowey. “We think of those who lost their lives every day, but I think it’s very appropriate to name the bridge after Mario Cuomo, a great governor of the state of New York.”

Lowey, whose district includes both the Rockland and Westchester sides of the bridge, worked for Mario Cuomo when he was governor.  

In the past few years, others have urged naming the bridge in honor of the late Pete Seeger, given his work on the Hudson River. Meanwhile, Rockland County Democratic Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski has a few opinions on names.

“I’ve heard opinions about naming it after some veterans. I think that would be a great thing, like a Veterans Memorial Bridge or something like that,” says Zebrowski.  I think that’s a great way we can honor the men and women that have fought for our country.”

But he’s open to another idea.

“I’m certainly a big fan of Mario Cuomo so I think he’d be a very worthy recipient as well,” Zebrowski says.

State Senator David Carlucci, an Independent Democrat whose district includes the Rockland side of the bridge, is not thinking about names.

“Well, I think we should have a robust discussion about what the bridge should be called but, more importantly, we have to figure out how we’re going to fund it to make sure that tolls are affordable on the Tappan Zee Bridge,” Carlucci says. “So before we even talk about really settling on a name, we have to settle on a plan to keep tolls low for commuters in the Hudson Valley,” Carlucci says. “If we have a beautiful bridge with a beautiful name but we can’t afford to cross it, that will just devastate our economy.”

In November, the Thruway Authority announced there would be no system-wide toll increase in 2016, made possible by the previously-approved nearly $1.3 billion Thruway Stabilization Fund. And in January, Cuomo proposed investing $700 million in the Thruway, which would allow the authority to freeze tolls until at least 2020.

The current span is named for a politician; it’s really The Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge.