An online petition to abandon the namesake of the Mario Cuomo Bridge in the Lower Hudson Valley continued to pick up steam last week with more than 101,000 people signing it.
The petition states that the new bridge, recently opened after years of construction, should be named the Tappan Zee, which was the title of the old bridge for decades. The New York State Legislature, at the behest of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (Mario’s son), approved the new name in summer 2017 once construction was completed.
Mario Cuomo was governor for three terms in New York and was widely considered a progressive icon, but his name on the bridge has caused quite a stir. Residents in the region have argued the Cuomo Bridge doesn’t mesh with the Hudson Valley since Cuomo was a Queens native and has no strong connection to the region. Many believe the Tappan Zee is the more traditional choice.
Similarly to the rest of the region, residents and state office holders in Putnam were passionate about what the new bridge should actually be named when reached by The Putnam Examiner.
Putnam Valley resident, Michael Bennett, said he grew up with the Tappan Zee Bridge and even though former governor Malcolm Wilson’s name was later added, it was still known as the Tappan Zee.
Bennett, the Democratic Committee chairman for Putnam Valley, suggested the process be opened up to residents in the region so they can bring forth different names for the new bridge with a selection made from there.
“I’m sure hundreds of equally valid possibilities could have been considered. There are explorers, politicians, celebrities, scientists, local champions and fallen heroes that were all worthy of contemplation,” Bennett said. “And then, whatever name was chosen by the people, it could have simply been slapped in front of the name Tappan Zee so we could all retain our feelings of nostalgia and know what structure we’re talking about.”
Bennett added state lawmakers, including Andrew Cuomo, had to know the decision for the new name would be unpopular, especially when it was made out of public view.
Patterson resident Frank D’Anna would like to see the bridge be once again called the Tappan Zee, calling it an iconic name recognized worldwide.
“It’s just as easy as remembering the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty,” D’Anna said. “Everybody knows the Tappan Zee.
Philipstown resident Lithgow Osborne said to name the bridge after the current governor’s father was mistimed, especially because Andrew Cuomo is up for reelection next year. He said it was admirable that Cuomo wanted to name the bridge after his late father, but the honor would mean more “if it didn’t smell of rank opportunism.”
“If there are any ardent admirers of Mario Cuomo who wish to take up the cause and call for the bridge to be renamed in his honor, then I would be strongly supportive of that effort,” Osborne, the Democratic Committee chairman in Philipstown, said. “Every son should be proud of their of father and it isn’t often that the general public thinks so too, but to take advantage of that and use it for political gain is unseemly and a bit gauche.”
NYS Senator Terrence Murphy and NYS Assemblyman Kevin Byrne, both Republicans, are two state representatives locally against the new bridge’s name.
“I was one of only two Senators to vote in opposition,” Murphy said through a spokesman. “With all due respect to the Governor, our veterans have sacrificed more in defense of our State and our freedoms. The bridge should have been dedicated to them.”
Byrne said the backlash to the new name didn’t surprise him because people are sick of backdoor deals in state government. He noted the vote to rename the new bridge after the older Cuomo came late at night without any public input.
Byrne, whose late paternal grandfather was a concrete plant manager and worked on the initial Tappan Zee Bridge, introduced legislation that would revert the bridge’s name back to Tappan Zee, including Governor Wilson’s name, as well. He has secured cosponsors and support of the bill if it is brought to the floor.
“That said, understanding our present Governor would still have to sign this into law, I’m open to amending it further if the Governor or any of my legislative colleagues have additional ideas,” Byrne said in an email. “Let’s revert the name back to its original form, but if changing it to the ‘Governors Malcolm Wilson and Mario Cuomo Tappan Zee Bridge’ would help ensure its passage, I would consider that, as well.”
NYS Senator Sue Serino’s office said the senator didn’t have an opinion on the matter.
NYS Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, a Democrat, voted in favor of the proposal, even though it wasn’t her first choice. Galef, elected to state office in 1992, was in Albany the final two years of Mario Cuomo’s last term before he lost reelection to Republican and current Putnam resident George Pataki.
Galef said she tried to get the new bridge named the Purple Heart Memorial Bridge in honor of veterans, but it didn’t have the votes in the assembly. Now that it’s the Mario Cuomo Bridge, Galef said it should be left like that, even though she admits she’ll probably always refer to it as the Tappan Zee.
She isn’t surprised by the passionate input from residents in the area, considering before this summer a name for the new bridge was heavily debated.
“There have been a lot of different suggestions,” Galef said.