There was an article in the Times the other day about a misguided effort to rename the Triborough Bridge. Elliot Spitzer wants to rename it after Robert F. Kennedy. Others names were suggested, including Andrew Haswell Green, the founding father of the Consolidation of Greater New York, so I guess those of us at the Greater New York blog should approve, but I don’t. If I were to rename the Triborough bridge, I would name it after the person who created it, and made it a model of urban transportation, Robert Moses, who really does not have anything named after him in NYC worthy of his legacy as a master builder, but I suppose that is a non-starter.
But I don’t want the name to change. The Triborough is my favorite name among NYC’s bridges and tunnels. Most of the geographic names are one-sided, named after one side of the bridge, but not the other. (The Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg, Whitestone, Queensboro,and Throg’s Neck Bridges, for starters.) Others are named after people who have fairly tangential connection to NYC (Verrazano, Lincoln, and George Washington, though he did fight a major battle in Upper Manhattan) or are hopelessly obscure (Holland, up there with Major Deegan.) Only the Queens-Midtown and Brooklyn-Battery Tunnels have names that are fair to both ends of the crossing.
But of course the Triborough doesn’t go from point A to B, it goes from point A to B to C, and its name captures that, and, much better than naming it after Andrew Haswell Green, captures the sense of New York City as a composite of its boroughs, in a bridge that connects the three most important parts of New York City (sorry Staten Island fans), Manhattan, Long Island, and the lower extension of the Hudson Valley.
And the Triborough also is part what is most distinctive after New York City’s naming pattern, naming streets and other geographical locations after numbers, not people, which has saved the city from endless debates about renaming streets (which hasn’t prevented ersatz naming of streets after prominent people that are completely irrelevant to what they are actually called.)
If we most rename streets, let’s rename them after favorite numbers, not people. I would love my favorite number, 65,336 or 2 16, given proper recognition on some street somewhere, perhaps in Queens where no one will notice another confusing number. Or why not rename the diagonal between 1st Street and 2nd Street the √2 crossing? In any event, let’s keep the Triborough the Triborough!