EDITORIAL: Restore historic Tappan Zee name to span

A lighted bridge
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State lawmakers have an opportunity to right a wrong and at the same time pay tribute to the state’s Dutch and Native American heritage by undoing an action that never should have been taken in the first place.

It’s time to bring back the Tappan Zee Bridge.

The bridge, which spans the Hudson River between Rockland and Westchester counties, originally was named to honor the Tappans, a sub-tribe of the Delaware/Lenni Lenape Indian tribe that occupied the region in the pre-Colonial days, and the 17th Century Dutch settlers who also lived in the area. “Zee” is the Dutch word for sea. Tappan Zee is part of New York’s history, and the bridge that crosses the river at that point honors that history.

Well, it did anyway, at least until 2017.

That’s when then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo decided to use his power to strip the Tappan Zee name completely off the bridge and name the replacement span after his own father, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo. It was a cynical, egotistical effort to cement the family name in state history and promote his own legacy.

State lawmakers, particularly Democrats, were too afraid of the governor to oppose him on this. And Cuomo promised Republicans a bunch of concessions if they went along, and they took them.

Since then, lawmakers have rejected efforts by members of the Republican minority to either restore the old name of the bridge entirely or at least re-attach the Tappan Zee name somehow.

Now that Cuomo is gone, resigned in disgrace, some lawmakers have finally mustered the courage to right this wrong.

Downstate Democratic Sen. James Skoufis has introduced legislation (S4558) to remove Cuomo’s name and replace it with the old Tappan Zee name. Local Republican Sens. Jim Tedisco and Dan Stec are cosponsors. Rockland County Republican Assemblyman John McGowan is carrying the companion bill (A4588) in the Assembly.

Having a Democratic sponsor should give the bill the heft it needs to finally get through the Legislature. It’s a welcome development.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, asked about the bill on Tuesday, gave her usual wishy-washy response, saying she would consider signing it if it passed.

Residents also appear to support the change.

Many locals still refer to the bridge as the Tappan Zee over five years after it was renamed. And a petition on change.org to change the name back had garnered more than 262,000 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.

The truth is that the bridge never should have been stripped of its historic moniker in the first place, especially in the interest of politics and Cuomo’s ego.

Lawmakers will be righting a wrong by restoring the Tappan Zee name.

History and heritage matter.

It’s time to fix this.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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