Koch Feelin' Groovy Over Queensboro Bridge Name Change

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Ed Koch is getting a 1,400 foot-long present for his 86th birthday.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed renaming the Queensboro Bridge after the former mayor at Koch's birthday party Wednesday night at Gracie Mansion.

Koch said that he was delighted, grateful and surprised when he got Mayor Bloomberg's phone call telling him the news late Tuesday afternoon. Moreover, Koch thinks it’s a good fit. “There are other bridges that are much more beautiful, like the George Washington or the Verrazano,” he said, “but this more suits my personality because it's a workhorse bridge. I mean, it's always busy, it ain't beautiful, but it's durable.”

The Manhattan side of the bridge is located in the congressional district Koch represented before he was elected mayor in 1977. The City Council has to approve the change, but Speaker Christine Quinn has said she supports it.

The new name will be the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge.

And it’s not the only name change in the works: the New York State Legislature voted Tuesday to rename the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, a renaming effort that Koch was involved in.

“I’ve been trying to get something named for Governor Carey,” he said. “I think he was the best governor of the modern era and saved both the city and the state from default and from bankruptcy.” Carey served as governor from 1975 to 1982.  

This isn’t the Queensboro’s first name change. When construction began, city officials intended to call it the Blackwell’s Island Bridge after the piece of land -- now known as Roosevelt Island -- that it traversed.  But by the time it opened in 1909 it was the Queensboro. It's also informally known as the 59th Street Bridge, which is how it was memorialized in the iconic Simon & Garfunkel song "59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)."

When asked how quickly he thought New Yorkers would take to the name change, the former mayor wasn’t optimistic. “Probably 50 years,” he said, noting that other name changes haven’t always been adopted quickly. “Maybe I’ll be lucky. If they call it the Ed Koch Bridge, that’d be wonderful.”

At the party Wednesday night, former Koch legislative staffer Martha Holstein said she believes that the renaming will have a track record similar to those of streets that are renamed for individuals, but continue to be called by their original names.

Holstein said with a twinkle in her eye, "You'd maybe say, 'I'm going over the Koch.' And I think we've said that before, too, haven't we? When we wanted to go the President instead of the Mayor."

Koch made the crowd laugh when he referred to the crossing between Manhattan and Queens as "his bridge."

Mayor Bloomberg said the tribute is just one more addition to Koch's legacy and added it won't cost anything.

"We will raise private money to rename the bridge signs so it won't cost the taxpayers a dime. All New Yorkers from now on whenever they cross or pass the bridge will be reminded of Ed's impact on this city."

Koch read a passage from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby to the crowd about approaching Manhattan from the bridge.

"'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.' Isn't that wonderful?"

Unveiling of the a sign displaying the Queensboro Bridge's new name
Kathleen Horan/WNYC
Unveiling of a sign displaying the Queensboro Bridge's new name
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Former Mayor Ed Koch and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn
Kathleen Horan/WNYC
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Former Mayor Ed Koch and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn pose in front of a sign displaying the Queensboro Bridge's new name
Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge sign
Kathleen Horan/WNYC
Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge sign


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Comments [6]

Scarlett Ahmed from Queens

Queens residents are NOT feeling groovy about it:

Apr. 06 2011 09:42 AM
Norwood Neighborhood Association from Astoria, Queens

The Queensboro Bridge (also known as The 59th Street Bridge) appears in films, literature and songs. The connection and identification with the Borough of Queens is strong. Why, Why WHY would the city even consider renaming it the Ed Koch Bridge?
Would the city think for even a milli-second of renaming the Brooklyn Bridge the Ed Koch Bridge? NO Chance! This proposed renaming is an affront to the people of Queens - the gateway to our borough.
NO ONE will ever call the Queensboro Bridge the Ed Koch Bridge.

Renaming the Triboro Bridge cost about $4 million dollars. Though the city plans to raise funds from private sources, wouldn't you think a city in fiscal crisis might have a better way to spend a few million dollars? How about on schools, parks, transit?

Mayor Bloomberg, you don't want to be remembered by the people of New York City's largest borough as the Mayor who took away our bridge, do you?

Norwood Neighborhood Association says NO!!!

Mar. 18 2011 11:20 PM
Paul K, Esq. from QUEENS

The NY City Council is considering remaning the Queensboro Bride the Edward Koch Bridge?
I hope not! Ed Koch was a mediocre mayor of this city and did little if anything for the Borough of Queens. He is far more devoted to his personal position and visibility than the welfare of the city, esp. the "outer Boroughs". Renaming this beautiful structure, a HALLMARK of the borough of Queens would be an insult and a travesty.
LEAVE the Queensboro Bridge as a tribute to Queens; NOT a public servant.

Dec. 14 2010 04:45 AM
Phil from Queens

The Queensboro bridge shouldn't be renamed, but if it must, then not after Mayor Ed Koch. Ed Koch has no significant relation to Queens and that bridge is a Queens mascot and integral to the borough's identity. If you had to give a landmark to Mayor Koch, build him a new one or at least give him the Bronx-Whitestone or the Manhattan bridge because those (at least in namesake) have some connection to his political and personal lives. I don't know what the logic was for picking the QB bridge, but as a Queens native and some one who grew up crossing that bridge and crosses it daily still, I find the decision insulting.

Dec. 09 2010 11:07 AM
Amy from Brooklyn

I think the Battery Tunnel Underpass should be renamed The Tippel because it's the tunnel at the tip of Manhattan.

Dec. 09 2010 10:48 AM
Andrew Herzman from Long Island

Enough with the name changes! It causes confusion and is unnecessary! Politicians are public servants, not people to worship! Stop the nonsense and leave the names of or bridges,tunnels and highways alone!

Dec. 08 2010 11:38 PM

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