Please Don't Confuse Mario with Andrew
I have heard agitation to drop the name of Mario Cuomo from the bridge spanning the Hudson River – the one most New Yorkers stubbornly call The Tappan Zee Bridge.
Just because the son is resigning as governor – and not a moment too soon – does not mean the father should be obliterated from the elegant new bridge that was officially named for Mario Cuomo, who served three full terms as governor, which is more than the grabby son will ever serve.
Besides, we New Yorkers don’t follow every order we hear.
For example, we jaywalk.
Most New Yorkers never stopped calling it the “Tappan Zee” – “Tappan,” in homage to the Lenape tribe that lived there peacefully for many centuries before whites invaded, and “Zee,” the Dutch word for “sea,” connotating the wide point in the river.
It was “Tappan Zee Bridge” while we braced for rear-end collisions on the Sunday night southbound backup and it was “Tappan Zee Bridge” when we hit axel-threatening holes in the archaic pavement. And that name still resonates with New Yorkers, after the son had the power to bring about the naming of the new bridge for his father, a good human being.
Plus, we can save millions of dollars by not changing all those signs for the new span that opened during the tempestuous reign of Cuomo II.
New Yorkers do not change our minds or speech patterns easily, particularly regarding our bridges and tunnels and thoroughfares. Just a few examples:
As much as we (I) admire the late Robert F. Kennedy, the spans connecting Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx are still known as the Triboro Bridge.
Same thing with the low span between Manhattan and Queens, technically named for the late mayor, Ed Koch. I can still hear Koch’s petulant question: “How’m I doing?” but as a fellow Queens kid I can hear Simon and Garfunkel singing, “Slow down, you move too fast/ You got to make the morning last,” in “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy.)”
I can still smell the Silvercup Bread being baked in the evening in Long Island City as we drove home from “The City” – that is, Manhattan.
The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel is technically named after former governor Hugh Carey, but, you know…
When my father took me around the city, teaching me to love it, he told me no New Yorker ever calls Sixth Ave. by that grandiose name, “Avenue of the Americas.”
As an aside, I have never typed or spoken the name of the bank connected with the Mets’ current ballpark, which I call “New Shea” or “The Mets ballpark.” I hate naming rights. (Bless the NYT copyeditors who went along with my little affectation.)
Then there is this: A few minutes off Interstate 84, in Vernon, Conn., is Rein’s New York Style Deli. (Our friend Cookie, who lives nearby, introduced us to it and we sat right below a New York subway sign.) One of the deli’s featured sandwiches includes roast beef, turkey and pastrami on three slices of rye bread, and is named for the Tappan Zee Bridge. “We must have ridden the Tappan Zee a million times,” owner Greg Rein has said.
To prove my point: I love the heritage of Jackie Robinson, our blazing pioneer with the Brooklyn Dodgers. But that dangerous narrow parkway – now officially re-named for No. 42 -- that wriggles on the glacial spine of Queens to the Brooklyn border will always be The Interboro – or, as we New Yorkers pronounce it, “Duh Intaboro.”
Finally, a little personal Queens history. The Cuomo family moved into a bucolic neighborhood right behind my family house on a busy street, after I had grown up and moved out. The Cuomos voted at the same polling station as my parents – “Nice people,” said my parents.
(Word from others was that the three Cuomo girls were terrific, young Chris was a sweetie, and Andrew was…well…difficult.)
In time, I got to chat with Gov. Mario Cuomo about his loyalty to his Coach for Life, a leprechaun named Joe Austin who coached youth baseball and basketball teams for the St. Monica’s parish in South Jamaica. For his inaugurations as governor, Mario made sure Joe Austin was front and center, and addressed him as “Coach.”
(I wrote about Mario, combative Queens jock, when he passed in 2015.)
One time, a mutual friend brought Matilda Cuomo to our house while they were out for a ride, and they stayed a few hours for lunch. My wife and I have lasting memories of Mrs. Cuomo: she is a lady.
Leave Mario Cuomo’s name on the bridge. The Tappan Zee Bridge.
* * *
I should add: In the past five years, an assortment of rickety, glittery, pretentious, over-priced buildings have had a certain odious name scraped or painted or sandblasted from the façades, after outcries by the residents.
We New Yorkers do have our standards.
Watching over the East River like a benevolent gargoyle. I'm betting that even Mayor Koch would call it the 59th Street Bridge or The Queensboro Bridge. (Version by the Harpers Bizarre.)
8/18/2021 10:21:26 am
Mention of Tappan Zee Bridge always brings to mind one of the memorable one-liners of our late friend, sportswriter Vic Ziegel.While on holiday in Germany, he was asked, "Sprechen she Deutsch?" He replied, "Nein. Tappan Zee Bridge?" (courtesy of another dear sportswriter-friend Steve Jacobson.)
8/18/2021 12:00:56 pm
Lee, love that story. Somebody told that, very well, at the memorial for Vic. GV
8/18/2021 10:31:33 am
The "original" Tappan Zee Bridge (which made it possible for my family to move to Rockland in 1960) also bore an alternative name, never once uttered by anyone other than Gov. Malcolm Wilson's family. (Wilson was the Lt. Governor who succeeded Nelson Rockefeller when Rocky went to Washington to become VP).
8/18/2021 12:03:39 pm
Marty: Thank you for the mistake, which I have now changed. (Hugh Carey was governor...) I'd like tro see the Wilson family demand his name back on the bridge. Bridgegate!
8/18/2021 10:31:46 am
Great column, George. Your first-born and I were discussing the costs coming as we headed up ye olde I-87, crossing the "Tappan Zee." We wondered how much will it cost to replace Andrew's name for Kathy's on signs throughout NYS. The vanity of this practice is absurd and unnecessary. As I was researching the costs via Google while first-born was driving, I came upon a story about the major mistake in naming the Mario Cuomo Bridge. It was missing his middle initial! https://gothamist.com/news/dot-needs-to-replace-dozens-of-signs-for-gov-mario-m-cuomo-bridge-because-of-one-missing-letter
8/18/2021 12:08:26 pm
Di, so they went ahead and did it? Oy.,
8/18/2021 11:25:36 am
In the words of William Shakespeare- “What’s in a name?”
8/18/2021 12:12:17 pm
Alan: You lucked out when you opted out of the bridge trip. well done.
8/18/2021 10:55:22 pm
When we visited Germany, because of my English, I was asked whether I was from England, and I said, at first, "No, the States." "Oh." (Maybe they envisioned Texas or Florida.) Then I started saying, "No, New York," and everyone wanted to be friends!
8/18/2021 11:18:36 pm
Oops, forgot! Boroughs vs. Counties vs. Addresses
Alan D. Levine
8/22/2021 04:17:09 pm
The area north of the Broadway-225th Street Bridge, running between the Harlem River Ship Canal and the filled-in bed of the diverted Spuyten Dyvill Creek is in the Borough of The Bronx, not Manhattan, but is in New York County. It stretches east of Broadway. My son, who has lived on Marble Hill Avenue for more than twenty years, has never thought of his neighborhood as being "seedy."
8/23/2021 12:02:26 pm
8/18/2021 12:02:43 pm
Let's get straight to the point: Van "Wick" or Van "Wyke." I say the former.
8/18/2021 04:47:53 pm
Just listened to a Bowery Boys podcast (great product if you are interested in NYC history) and the proper pronunciation is the latter.
8/18/2021 06:21:22 pm
Roy, sorry, thought I pushed the button before. Nice to see your name here, We grew up four miles from the Van Wyck and had reason to pronounce it, even before JFK airport loomed larger in our lives.
8/18/2021 10:34:22 pm
After too many trips with heavy traffic to Eddie's Sweet Shop on Metropolitan Avenue for ice cream (just a few blocks off the Interboro). Mom started calling it the Van Wicked.
Alan D. Levine
8/22/2021 04:20:34 pm
8/18/2021 12:32:07 pm
George, along with the Silver-cup bread aroma came the aroma of Dentyne gum. And it was always the 59th Street Bridge to us. We used it to avoid the 25 cent toll of the other crossings.
8/18/2021 02:07:57 pm
Maury: I remember the sign, but not the aroma. I haven't been in Manhattan since the pandemic began (what I miss most in all of this) but "normally" I still use the 59th St. Bridge when it makes sense.
8/18/2021 12:46:00 pm
Brilliant, George. And at least places around here have names, unlike the numbers used during my brief time in L.A., where you "take the 5 to the 210 to the 605 to the 405...."
8/18/2021 02:13:32 pm
John, I know what you mean, about the main interstates....But I have fond memories of Mulholland Drive (used for a lot of car commercials these days), and La Cienaga (from LAX to West Hollywood (with a few oil rigs still bobbing, last time I was there) and who doesn't love Sunset Blvd?
8/18/2021 04:53:10 pm
George, just got home from dropping the youngest off in VA for junior year, and as we were approaching the exit off of 17/287 to 287E towards the bridge, my wife noticed that the sign over the highway still said Tappan Zee. I then noticed the "Entering NYS" sign, after which the next sign called it the Cuomo bridge. Looks like NJ was not interested in spending the $ to indulge Andrew.
8/18/2021 04:59:37 pm
Hoboken had the Maxwell House coffee plant along the Hudson River. You could sometimes smell the coffee if you were near by.
Alan d. Levine
8/22/2021 04:29:08 pm
I believe Henry Krajewski's pig farm was still in operation in 1955-56. But it wasn't the source of the smell. That was the fat rendering plant.
8/18/2021 05:03:54 pm
I love learning about New York from New Yorkers....after all these years, still learning! Cheers to you!
8/18/2021 06:31:13 pm
Jim, we just talk a lot. Great to hear from you..spent a lot of time in the same press boxes. I went to Hofstra, which had a great coaching staff of Howdy Myers, Al Paul and Joe Gianelli, all of whom had coached in Maryland. I listened to how they pronounce "Bawlmer" but sometimes it sounded like "Ball-a-mer." I just read on Wiki that many Blacks in the area pronounce it "Baldamore." Jim Ogle of the Newark paper pronounced it "Balty-more." My daughter, Laura, who was a sports columnist there, has a lot of affection for the region and loves to pronounce the affectionate term, "Hon." And have you heard Swoboda's great mix of Baltimore, New York and New Orleans?
8/19/2021 07:17:54 am
George and friends,
8/19/2021 09:44:20 am
Randy, good point. I always liked southern accents and was aware of my subway patois. When we moved to Louisville, I listened and tried to soften my accent...as you know, mountain accents are different from southern accents. Whenever I headed east (best part of my job), I could feel my accent shifting gears when I got to New Cut Road in Lexington and headed for the Mountain Parkway. Then I spent a few years on the bus with Loretta Lynn and her merry gang.
8/19/2021 11:10:36 am
8/19/2021 04:23:25 pm
Randy, people in Eastern KY talk faster than a southern drawl. I got to where I could follow locals - -and I could translate for Mrs. W. She retains her Connecticut speech (not suburban CT, but back a few centuries, much further East.) Noo Yawk accent still foreign to her,
8/19/2021 11:13:58 am
8/19/2021 11:47:31 am
Tempus fugit--and so do names.
8/19/2021 04:28:09 pm
Hi, nice to hear from you (in the mountains?)
8/20/2021 07:51:08 am
Avery Fisher's family reportedly got $15 million.
8/19/2021 07:31:17 pm
Great NYC memories. Alan mentions the great snowstorm, my Dad and I got stranded in LI City near his bakery. I came in with him from Rockville Centre, to buy Knicks tickets, a Christmas present. It snowed twice in about 36 hours, all trains stopped, no traffic in Times Square, six! big, Burns Brothers coal trucks, (remember them), were stalled in Times Squaree circled head to tail like elephants. We finally found a room in a dingy 42 St. hotel. That night we saw the first pro tennis tour at the Garden, Jack Kramer v Bobby Riggs, and Pancho Gonzales v Pancho Segura. Thre nexct night, The Knicks.
8/20/2021 07:58:23 am
In fifth grade geography at St. Luke's in Whitestone, after being taught the definition of "island," a classmate who shall remain nameless asked Sister Joan, "Then when we go out to Long Island, how come we don't have to go over a bridge?" In case you still hear my eyes rolling, . . . .
8/20/2021 07:54:54 am
George: Even though I considev
8/20/2021 06:09:40 pm
Alan D Levine
8/22/2021 04:38:01 pm
To return to the top of the thread, Mario Cuomo spent three terms talking like a philosopher while doing little more than building prisons and ignoring environmental and conservation issues.
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From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.