Those who prefer bridges over walls, who believe that walls keep us apart while bridges bring us together, never lived in New York.
If there’s one thing — actually there are many but this one has been in the news a lot in the last week — dividing us, it’s our newest bridge.
But first consider the Verrazano or Verrazzano linking Staten Island and Brooklyn. The single-z spelling of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, all accounts agree, comes from a typographical error in contracts when the bridge was built more than 50 years ago. Instead of honoring explorer Giovanni de Verrazzano, the typo has irritated Italian Americans, historians and grammarians ever since.
Now, a Republican state senator representing the Brooklyn end has received unanimous support for a bill to officially correct the name. He argues that this would not cost the state anything because all it does is make sure that official records have the correct spelling. And it’s possible that should the state merely make changes as laws and regulations are updated, that would be the case.
But as the New York Post pointed, out, the state had to spend $4 million on signs when it renamed the Triborough Bridge the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge in 2008 and you can be sure that once the official extra z is in place, there will be pressure to change the signs.
At least in this case everyone agrees on the name of the bridge. The same cannot be said for that span linking Tarrytown and Nyack, the one that used to be named for Malcolm Wilson, the lieutenant governor who served under Nelson Rockefeller, became governor when Rocky moved on to be vice president, then lost the election the following year.
Legislators liked him and named the bridge after him as a political consolation prize but you would be hard-pressed to find anybody who actually used the name. Most people had no idea that the Tappan Zee Bridge was not just the Tappan Zee Bridge.
Most people still feel that way and would have been happy to continue using that name had our present governor not decided to muscle through a last-minute bill in the previous legislative session naming the bill for his father, Mario Cuomo, a governor who actually was elected.
Now, there is an online petition calling for an official change back to the Tappan Zee, an effort that our suddenly sensitive governor says he finds hurtful. “I believe it’s mean. I believe it’s vindictive. But this is the political environment we are in.”
Inflicting a lesser wound would be the proposed bill that would combine the two, making it the Mario M. Cuomo Tappan Zee Bridge.
In one way this does not matter. But it would be nice to have some consistency. We all seem to agree on the George Washington Bridge, the Bear Mountain and the Rip Van Winkle. We ignore Hamilton Fish when we travel between Newburgh and Beacon as we ignore FDR when we go from Highland to Poughkeepsie. So we can continue to ignore Mario Cuomo as we go from Nyack to Tarrytown no matter what our legislators do.