Though the signs have been hung and decision finalized, the fight over co-naming the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge continues.
Outgoing Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) has introduced a bill that would remove former Mayor Ed Koch’s name from the historic bridge and place it on the Municipal Building in Manhattan.
“If you look at all of the surveys done on the issue, they all show between 70 percent to 90 percent disapproval of changing the name and yet it happened,” Vallone said. “This has nothing to do at all with Ed Koch as a person but the people of Queens don’t want this name.”
The co-naming of the Queensboro Bridge was voted through by the City Council in 2011 with only four members of the Queens Delegation — Vallone and Councilmen Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) — voting against.
Reasons vary why Council members voted in the affirmative or negative. Some, such as Comrie, cite Koch’s controversial approach to minorities as reason enough not to put the former mayor’s name on the span.
Others, like Vallone, are against naming any landmark after a living person — Koch was still alive at the time.
“The voting on the Queensboro Bridge was a textbook example as to why people shouldn’t name things after people who are living,” Vallone said. “You had a speaker who was seeking endorsement and even Koch was vocal about wanting the bridge to be named after him.”
Though Vallone did not address it directly, there have been rumors that many Council members voted in favor in hopes of gaining endorsements from Koch.
Despite the majority of Council members being in favor of the name change in 2011, many members of the community spoke out against the decision, claiming the importance of maintaining the Queensboro Bridge’s name.
While many in office will not speak on the matter, there are Council members who plan on sticking to their original vote should Vallone’s bill come to the floor.
“It’s been done,” Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) said. “Vallone has reasons for feeling the way he feels but at this point, we’d have to change all of the signs and that’s money that could be going elsewhere.”
Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) passionately disagreed with the need to change the bridge’s name back.
“It’s silliness,” he said. “All of these people are running around saying this was a big taking, but before the vote no one called it the Queensboro Bridge, they called it the 59th Street Bridge. There were no campaigns or rallies held asking people to call it the Queensboro Bridge before they added Ed Koch’s name. What’s more preposterous is that the good name of Queens would be in any way diminished by the addition of six letters.
“This is the most diverse borough in the nation and it will not rise and fall based on those letters. It’s an insult to the borough to think that way. Acting like the fate of Queens is at stake because of this undersells it.”
Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) was not sure if he’d vote the same way.
“I voted in favor of changing the name but it’s probably the one vote that, if I had the opportunity to revisit, I would,” Dromm said. “I recently saw the documentary ‘How to Survive a Plague’ and it showed how minimally Koch responded to the AIDS crisis.”
The AIDS epidemic of the ’80s and ’90s is an issue Dromm feels very passionately about.
“When the bill was first brought to the floor in 2011, a lot of members of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus spoke and recalled the racial strife during the Koch administration as well,” he said. “By watching that film, it took me back to those times and how horrible it was, so it’s something I’ll have to rethink.”
Vallone, who is being term-limited out at the end of December, fully acknowledges that the bill is unlikely to pass this year.
“This isn’t something that will happen soon but I am laying the ground work for the new mayor and new speaker and the new members of the Queens Council Delegation,” he said.