With the pandemic still raging, the economy still struggling and taxes still crippling, it would seem New York lawmakers have plenty of issues on which to focus their attention other than the name of a bridge.
But not every issue has to be about budgets and taxes in order to matter to people.
Here in New York, history matters. Showing respect for cultures matters. Honoring our ancestors matters. Perception matters.
It’s for those reasons that state lawmakers should consider either of two bills pending to restore the Tappan Zee name to the bridge that crosses the Hudson River between Rockland and Westchester counties.
In a vanity project to place the family name in a very prominent place and to honor the legacy of his father, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2017 stripped both Gov. Malcolm Wilson’s name and the Tappan Zee name from the Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge and renamed the replacement bridge exclusively after his father, the late Gov. Mario M. Cuomo.
It was an unpopular decision on many fronts. But the governor at the time had the power to ram it through, so he did.
But now that Andrew Cuomo is gone, it’s time to reconsider the bridge’s name, not from the perspective of politics, but from the perspective of history and heritage.
The original name of the bridge honors the Native American and Dutch heritage of the region. In pre-Colonial days, that area was known as the Tappan Zee.
The Tappan part of the name comes from the Tappans, a Lenape Indian tribe that inhabited the region. The word “Zee” is the Dutch word for “sea,” and honors the early Dutch settlers who also occupied the region.
The Tappan Zee name also has its place in American literature, having been mentioned several times in Washington Irving’s short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
Stripping the Tappan Zee name from the bridge entirely not only insults the people who historically occupied the region, but also paints over the region’s rich history.
It should be restored in some way.
One bill, A8337, would rename the bridge the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Tappan Zee Bridge, adding the Tappan Zee portion back to the official name. The bill is sponsored by a Democratic assemblyman, which would give it a better chance of passage in the Democrat-controlled Legislature.
Another bill, A6594/S7323, would simply rename the bridge the Tappan Zee Bridge, removing Cuomo’s name entirely. Among the cosponsors of that legislation are local state Sens. James Tedisco, Daphne Jordan and Dan Stec, all Republicans.
We support the latter bill. If we truly want to show respect for the heritage and history of the region, the Tappan Zee name should stand alone on the bridge.
In fact, lawmakers should look at other structures where a politician’s name could be replaced with one honoring local history.
This may seem trivial to some, but perception and history and heritage do matter.
Lawmakers can show that by restoring the Tappan Zee name back to the place of honor and prominence on the bridge.