Living Monuments: New York City’s long tradition

Living Monuments: New York City’s long tradition

Living Monuments: New York City’s long tradition
October 22, 2015

Everyone knows LaGuardia Airport, the George Washington Bridge and the Major Deegan, but New York City also has a long history of naming things after living politicians. Very long, as a matter of fact: When the British army captured New Amsterdam in 1664, they renamed the area New York to honor the Duke of York. Here are some more recent cases.

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David N. Dinkins Manhattan Municipal Building

When New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio renamed the Manhattan Municipal Building for the city’s first black mayor – and his former employer – this month, the 88-year-old Dinkins was there to see it. Completed in 1914, the grand, classical building at 1 Centre St. was the first building in the city to incorporate a subway station at its base.

Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge

When a bridge already has two names (Queensboro and the 59th Street Bridge), why not give it a third? Or so Mayor Michael Bloomberg must have thought when he officially named it the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge in 2011. Despite Queens-centric pushback led by then-City Councilman Peter Vallone, Koch was on hand for the dedication ceremony to say he was “very grateful.”

Hugh L. Carey Tunnel

State legislators approved an official name change for the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel the same week the Bloomberg administration announced plans to honor Koch with his bridge. While the Brooklyn-born former Gov. Hugh Carey was alive to hear of the honor, he died before the official renaming ceremony in 2012 (though his family was there to celebrate).

Bernard B. Kerik Complex

Not all ceremonial renamings are forever. From 2001 to 2006, the Manhattan Detention Complex, commonly called the Tombs, was named after Bernard Kerik, who had served as both the city’s correction and police commissioner. The name reverted to the original, more descriptive one when Kerik pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors – an irony that was not lost on the man who titled his memoir “From Jailer to Jailed.”

Frank Padavan Campus at Glen Oaks

Republican state Sen. Frank Padavan was in the middle of his 2008 re-election campaign when his name was added to a public school campus in his northeast Queens district. His Democratic opponent, James F. Gennaro, called it “completely outrageous” and believed it to be a ploy by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to maintain the Republican majority in the Senate. One of the largest public school campuses in the country, it still bears the Padavan name.

Guy V. Molinari and John J. Marchi Staten Island Ferries

Long-serving Staten Island politicians Guy Molinari and John Marchi were honored months apart in 2005 with their names in paint on the big orange boats. There does not seem to be much method behind the ferry-naming process, as the Molinari and Marchi joined a fleet alongside vessels named for President John F. Kennedy, local high school football coach Andrew J. Barberi, and turn-of-the-century photographer Alice Austen.

BONUS: USS Van Buren

Not to be confused with the World War II-era frigate of the same name, the 73-foot schooner USS Van Buren was commissioned in 1839 and named to honor Kinderhook, New York’s favorite son, President Martin Van Buren. It participated in the Mexican-American War, but was deemed unseaworthy after less than eight years and sold by 1847, 15 years before Van Buren’s own death.

Jeff Coltin
Jeff Coltin
is a staff reporter at City & State. He covers New York City Hall.
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