Ashkenazi Jews, of which former Mayor Ed Koch is one, generally shun the idea of having children named after them while they are still alive. It’s called a kinahora, or bad omen. No one has ever ruled on whether that extends to infrastructure. But the City Council didn’t ask when it voted to rename the 59th Street Bridge, aka the Queensboro, after the three-term mayor, who didn’t seek the honor but is likely very flattered by it; particularly since the only other bridge (or tunnel) going into Manhattan that bears someone’s name is the George Washington.
This, of course, got me humming the ditty composed more than 30 years ago by two other Ashkenazi Jews named Simon and Garfunkle, which includes the lyrics "Slow down, you move too fast …" That could apply to the busy artery linking Queens to Midtown Manhattan (known to TV viewers around the country for its appearance in the opening credits of the sitcom "Taxi") or to the erstwhile mayor, who at 85 refuses to retire and is a ubiquitous commentator on city life while working as a partner in a law firm.
For a while it was rare to name structures after living people, but the trend seems to be rising. Maybe it was the Brendan Byrne Arena that broke the mold, followed by the Alfonse D’Amato courthouse. The practice has been controversial, as seen in the case of the Charles B. Rangel School of Pubic Service at City College and the Bernard Kerik prison.
Here is a statement from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who proposed the honor, detailing not only what Mayor Koch did for the city during his tenture but what he did for the Queensborough Bridge. Some pooh-poohed the honor given to the mayor, saying the son of the Bronx and longtime Manhattan resident has no native connection to Queens.
The Daily News reports that a poll found a majority of both Queens residents and New Yorkers opposed the idea. There are even those in the Council who opposed on grounds that the mayor didn’t do enough for race relations. These critics should back down and welcome the day when traffic reporters will look to the span over the East River to see "how it’s doing."