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NYS Assemblyman Pens Bill To Undo Mario Cuomo Bridge Name

WAMC, Allison Dunne

A state lawmaker from the Hudson Valley has crafted a bill to revert the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge to its original name. The Putnam County Republican says the new bridge should contain the words “Tappan Zee,” and any name change should go through a different legislative process.

As part of the so-called “big ugly” at the end of session, the New York state Legislature in June approved naming the new 3.1-mile span from Rockland County to Westchester County for Governor Andrew Cuomo’s late father. Mahopac Assemblyman Kevin Byrne says he submitted his bill Thursday.

“I wanted this to be very simple. Before this bill passed at 1 o’clock in the morning, the name of the bridge was the Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge,” Byrne says. “So my legislation is to revert it back to the way it was.”

Byrne says the driving force behind his bill is the ongoing petition started by Port Chester attorney Dr. Monroe Mann, which has garnered more than 102,000 signatures. Byrne, whose district includes parts of Putnam and Westchester Counties, says he is open to amending his bill.

“If it would help to include the governor’s father, Mario Cuomo’s name in the new bridge name, I’d be happy to consider that as well. So I’m open to amending it, but I want to make sure that people need to know their voices are being heard, they’re not being ignored,” says Byrne. “And, even if the bill doesn’t pass and doesn’t get signed into law — I hope it does — I don’t think ignoring 100,000 people is acceptable. So I felt the need to do the right thing and submit legislation to let them know that their voice was being heard.”

The change.org petition says that while the late governor may be deserving of something named after him, it should not be at the expense of history and the original settlers of the land — the Tappan Indians and the Dutch. And, says the petition, not at taxpayer expense.

In an emailed statement, Governor Andrew Cuomo spokeswoman Abbey Fashouer says, "This is a brand-new bridge, which deserved a new name and after decades of delays is finally a reality for New Yorkers. The law was passed by an overwhelming majority of both Democrats and Republicans and it is a fitting tribute to a life-long public servant. With the serious issues facing New York, like fighting President Trump's devastating tax plan, working to keep New Yorkers insured, and helping the people of Puerto Rico – one would hope our legislators have more important bills to consider."

State Senator David Carlucci is an Independent Democrat whose district includes the Rockland side of the bridge.

“I break it down for my kids, some of these things, to nursery rhymes, and I say, ‘As Malcolm Wilson will clearly see, this bridge will always be the Tappan Zee.”

Carlucci says he remains more concerned about how the nearly $4 billion bridge will be paid for and how much tolls will rise after being frozen until 2020. However, Carlucci says he understands the public’s frustration with the name change.

“I’m going to refer to it as the Tappan Zee. I know my family and friends and neighbors are going to, that’s what we’ve grown up with, but I would like to see that. That should be added to it, that if we have, it’s the Mario Cuomo Tappan Zee, just like it was the Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee,” says Carlucci. “That’s very historically important to us and something that we should hold on to.”

A Siena College poll in September showed 44 percent of New Yorkers in support of naming the new Tappan Zee Bridge for Mario Cuomo, with 42 percent opposed, up from 37 percent in support in July. Democratic Assemblyman Tom Abinanti’s district includes Tarrytown, on the Westchester side of the bridge.

“The words ‘Tappan Zee’ should be reinserted in the name of the bridge no matter what we call the bridge,” Abinanti says. “There’s a history that is reflected in that name. It’s an identification of the region. It’s something that people identify with when they live along the Hudson River.”

Byrne says he also takes issue with the how the name change was passed. Abinanti says he, too, would have preferred the bridge naming go through a different process.

“When you have a public asset, like a bridge, we should be considering what the public is interested in, and we should have a public hearing, we should have a public discussion, maybe we should have a naming committee,” says Abinanti. “I, too, am disappointed in the way the process was conducted. I opposed using the special session one bill as the mechanism to name the bridge but, in the end, I had to vote for that one bill because it contained so many good things in it that the people of the state really needed. We didn’t really have a choice.”

Byrne voted against the bill. The Mario Cuomo Bridge, with one span in operation, is being constructed alongside the former Tappan Zee Bridge, which was retired October 6 and is being dismantled.

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