Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (D-Pleasantville) has introduced legislation that would restore the name Tappan Zee to the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, a move that he contends would properly recognize the history of the area.
Abinanti said last week that his proposal is a compromise that doesn’t eliminate the former governor from the official name of the span. The bridge, which opened in 2017, would be known as the Mario M. Cuomo Tappan Zee Bridge. At that time, then-governor Andrew Cuomo prevailed over the state legislature to name the bridge after his father, who served as governor from 1983 through 1994.
While there are some residents who believe his efforts are a waste of time, the longtime legislator said restoring Tappan Zee to the bridge’s name is one of the most frequent issues his office has been contacted about during the past few years. Most of his constituents want to see it officially referred to as the Tappan Zee, he said.
The Westchester side of the bridge is in his district, the 92nd Assembly District.
“People everywhere feel very, very strongly about restoring both the geographical and historical origins of Tappan Zee,” Abnianti said.
Tappan is the name of a Native American sub-tribe of the Delaware/Lenni Lenape who occupied the area, he said, while Zee is Dutch for sea, referring to the early Dutch settlers.
As part of Abinanti’s legislation, the welcome center near the bridge’s Westchester landing would be called the Governor Malcolm Wilson Welcome Center. Wilson, a 1970s governor and Westchester native, had his name added to the old Tappan Zee Bridge by Mario Cuomo, Abinanti said. However, when the elder Cuomo made that change, he made sure to keep the Tappan Zee reference intact, which will be the case with the assemblyman’s proposal, he said.
Abinanti said he would not want to see highway signs changed if he can get his bill passed and signed into law. He said there would be no justification financially to do that.
“It’s time that we all came together and reached a compromise,” Abinanti said. “Let’s stop the war over the name, it’s time to heal.”
The attempt by Abinanti is one of the few name changes proposed by a Democrat since the fight over the name started shortly after the new bridge opened. There were also renewed attempts by others late in the summer to make the switch once Andrew Cuomo resigned as governor in the wake of his sexual harassment scandals.
Although Abinanti often criticized Andrew Cuomo and had several of his proposed bills vetoed by the beleaguered ex-governor, he insisted that he was not piling on but was trying to respond to the sentiments of a majority of his constituents.
“It’s historical,” Abinanti said of Tappan Zee. “It’s familiar to the area and I think that my bill reflects that.”
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/