Albany Beat – The Jewish Press –

Posted By on July 19, 2017

Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Gov. Cuomo And The Anatomy Of A Bridge-Naming Controversy

This is probably the last time Ill be writing the words the Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge.

Last month, state lawmakers passed, and the governor signed into law, a measure that names the $4 billion, 16,013-foot bridge connecting Westchester and Rockland counties as the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. The bridge is expected to be birthed in nine months.

Ironically, it was Governor Mario Cuomo, who hailed from Queens and has no connection with Rockland or Westchester counties, who signed the legislation naming the Tappan Zee Bridge after Wilson, the Republican one-year governor, 15-year lieutenant governor and two decades in the state Assembly representing Yonkers. That is what the elder Cuomo wanted in 1994.

Why change the name of the bridge after 23 years? Wilson died in 2000 at age 86. He had six years to be proud of the honor. Now his children, grandchildren, and extended family wont get the chance to appreciate the respect the elder Cuomo bestowed upon him.

When Governor Andrew Cuomo was asked whether his father would want the bridge named for him, he said, He did have a deep respect for the institution of government and government service. He felt that people who made a contribution to public service should be held up as a model. If you asked my father about something being named for him, he would say he didnt want that. He would say I dont want a bridge named after me.

The Federal Highway Administration has officially designated the replacement bridge as a dual-span twin bridge. Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (D Ossining, Westchester County) has proposed for many years renaming the bridge The Purple Heart Bridge. The recently concluded legislative session saw the state Senate passing Galefs measure but the Assembly failing to act on it.

The Purple Heart veterans would very much like to have a naming opportunity at the bridge, Galef said on The Jewish View, a television program taped in Albany. Remember, its actually two bridges. Its not going to be one anymore. Theres actually a split between them so one span could be called one and the other span named after another. Recognizing our veterans, those who were wounded as they fought for us, I think is very appropriate. While there are highways named for Purple Heart veterans there are no bridges named for them, she said.

The new bridge spans 3.1 miles and sits at one of the widest parts of the Hudson River. One might ask, wouldnt it be less expensive to build a bridge at a narrower point, say south of the current location?

Well, the positioning of the bridge has to do with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The 1,500-square-mile port district is generally encompassed within a 25-mile radius of the Statue of Liberty National Monument. The new bridge is 100 feet north of the 25-mile catchment area of the Port Authority. This was done so that the Thruway Authority could maintain control of the bridge, regardless of the cost to taxpayers.

Cuomo said the first new span is likely to open in August. But be prepared for this issue to rear its head once again on August 7, which Cuomo named Purple Heart Day in New York State. To fix some broken purple hearts among those upset about the bridge renaming, Cuomo is pledging $10 million to expand their facilities to honor more of the men who received the Purple Heart, said area state Senator John Bonacic (R Mount Hope, Orange County), The 7,500-square-foot hall is managed by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission.

This is not the first time during his tenure that Cuomo removed a prominent name from a major roadway. On June 9, 2016, the Robert Moses State Parkway was renamed the Niagara Scenic Parkway in western New York.

There are some other upstate bridges named for prominent New Yorkers, mainly in the Mid-Hudson Valley in Orange, Ulster and Dutchess counties.

And there are New York City bridges and highways featuring the names of prominent New Yorkers in government and sports.

There are other options for a bridge-naming closer to home where Mario Cuomo grew up and was proud of his Italian heritage. Those bridges and thoroughfares include the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, the Throgs Neck Bridge, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and the Beach Channel Drawbridge.

Cuomo promised the Wilson family there will be another renaming to honor the late Governor Wilson.

More State Lawmakers Flee Albany For Local Office, Higher Pay

Of those lawmakers running for local office with higher pay are three Senate Democrats, one Senate Republican, four Assembly Democrats and six Assembly Republicans.

With more than 105 members out of 150, the Assembly Democratic majority is in no danger of losing power. Over in the Senate, the Republicans are hanging on to the majority by the slimmest of margins. The upcoming open seats could make the difference as to which party holds power in the upper house next year.

Since I wrote about this in last months column, two more state lawmakers said they were jumping ship for greener pastures in Suffolk County. Twenty-three year incumbent (18 years in the Assembly and five in the Senate) Senator Phil Boyle, 56, (R Bay Shore) is running for Suffolk County sheriff, and six-year incumbent assemblyman Al Graf, 59, (R Holbrook) is running for Suffolk County district court judge.

Weprin Could Be Moving Up In Assembly Stature

Within weeks of taking office in 2001, David Weprin (D Holliswood, Queens) became chairman of the New York City Councils Finance Committee. The choice of his colleagues to select a freshman councilman to preside over the review and management of the citys finances remains unprecedented.

During Weprins eight year tenure, he developed a reputation for responsible public spending. He even partnered with the Bloomberg administration and citizen advocacy groups to strengthen fiscal responsibility throughout all five boroughs. In 2008, Weprin was a key to locking away a total of $2.5 billion in surplus funds to ensure future retirees will continue to receive quality health care.

Weprin, 61, a lawyer by profession, has amassed a solid background as a numbers cruncher and budget balancer.

Weprin has been a member of the Assembly since 2010. Either this year or next, the 34-member Assembly Ways and Means Committee will be losing its chairman after more than a decade at the helm of the budget-writing committee. Weprin, who will be 50thin the line of seniority among Democrats in the 150-member house after November, would be a prime candidate to be considered as chairman.

There are a lot of senior members (18 Democrats on Ways and Means to be exact) who would be interested in that committee as well so if I were offered it I would be happy to serve; Id be thrilled, Weprin said on The Jewish View. But thats the speakers decision, Weprin noted.

Weprin currently serves as chairman of the Assembly Correction committee and is also co-president of the National Association of Jewish Legislators.

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