Schenectady County

Honor deserving local figures instead

After time, names don't matter
The north span of the new bridge at the Tappan Zee, days before it opened in August.
The north span of the new bridge at the Tappan Zee, days before it opened in August.

Regarding your Nov. 19 editorial, “Stop naming things after politicians,” denouncing the renaming of a bridge for former governor Mario Cuomo, and the Jan. 25 letter [“Town fields shouldn’t bear Landry’s name”] objecting to the naming of Niskayuna athletic fields for former Supervisor Joseph Landry: Both miss the opportunity to propose a healthy alternative to the depressing spectacle of political leaders concluding that all of the greatest benefactors of their communities just happen to have been recent political leaders.

There’s a better way, a way less likely to feed our hungry cynicism. The country and New York state have produced a great many distinguished writers, scientists, architects, educators, humanitarians, historians, musicians, physicians, engineers and others whose accomplishments a good society should be eager to honor. 

At the local level, Niskayuna hasn’t yet produced stars in every one of those areas, but every place has first settlers and first elected officials. There are surely estimable non-living educators and coaches for whom a playing field could appropriately be named, thereby incidentally boosting the morale of others currently serving in those roles.

But nothing like that will happen as long as naming continues to be done willy-nilly at town board or city council meetings. Instead, those bodies should ask their local historical societies to produce, for eventual use, lists of local non-living worthies — lists as diverse as the higher values of the community itself. By not excluding the occasional non-living political leader, they would be treating that kind of community service as only one among many.

In the meantime, The Gazette could make a positive contribution with some articles on existing street names. Many people have some idea who Seward, McClellan and Nott were. But who were Van Antwerp and Van Vranken? Who were Rosa and Maxon and Barrett?

Wayne Somers

Categories: Letters to the Editor, Opinion

Leave a Reply