New York Democrat State Senator James Skoufis (D-Woodbury) became the lead sponsor of a bill that would restore the name of the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge back to its original Tappan Zee Bridge.
“Everyone in the Hudson Valley still calls the bridge the Tappan Zee for a reason,” Skoufis told The New York Post Monday of the span that was newly completed in 2018 and renamed by disgraced former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for his father, Mario, who also served as governor.
Everyone in the Hudson Valley still calls the bridge the Tappan Zee for a reason. It’s the rightful name. https://t.co/2yTGG2Q5u4
— James Skoufis (@JamesSkoufis) February 21, 2023
“It’s the rightful name,” the Democrat state senator said about his effort to join state Republicans in the bill that would see the bridge that crosses the Hudson River between Rockland and Westchester Counties revert to its original name.
A legislative memo that accompanies SB S4558 explains the history of the bridge:
The name “Governor Mario Cuomo Bridge” does not reflect the rich Dutch and Native American history that Hudson Valley residents connect with. It is time that we revert the name of this beautiful bridge back to its rightful name – the Tappan Zee Bridge. Over 100,000 residents requested this in 2018, and it still rings true in 2021.
Reverting the name back to the Tappan Zee Bridge ties it to our local communities, where we have names such as Tappan Zee High School, and reminds us of the rich history of this crossing. The Dutch settlers that came to the Hudson Valley in the 17th Century named this crossing “Tappan Zee”, after a local Indian tribe and the Dutch word for sea. The Tappan tribe, a Lenape people, inhabited much of the area and their name is carried forth in localities across New York and New Jersey, including Old Tappan in Bergen County and Tappan in Rockland County. Changing the name to reflect our region’s rich history is the appropriate path forward and changing the name back to the Tappan Zee Bridge will do just that.
According to The Post’s report, Skoufis hopes to have the bill pass both the State Senate and Assembly before the end of the regular legislative session in June, and have Governor Kathy Hochul sign it into law.
On Wednesday, however, The Post reported Hochul will not say if she would sign the legislation to remove the “Cuomo” name from the bridge.
“First of all, Mario Cuomo was an extraordinary governor,” Hochul stated. “But if the bill passes … I would certainly look at anything that passes at the time, but it is too premature.”
NAME CHANGE? State Sen. James Skoufis is pushing for legislation to change the name of the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge back to the Tappan Zee Bridge. https://t.co/vezgGs1ap1
— Blaise Gomez (@BlaiseGomez12) February 22, 2023
State Assemblyman John McGowan (R-Pearl River) is sponsoring the bill in his chamber, where it received some Democrat support as well last year, but was ultimately blocked.
Former State Assemblyman Michael Lawler (R-Rockland) – now a member of Congress – said in April 2022, when he was leading the effort, he suspected the fact he is a Republican caused Assembly Transportation Committee Chair Bill Magnarelli (D-Syracuse) to allow the bill to die despite bipartisan support.
“The former governor disgraced his family name,” Lawler told The Post regarding Andrew Cuomo, who resigned in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal.
Lawler noted the controversial nature of events surrounding how the bridge came to be named in honor of Andrew Cuomo’s late father:
The process by which they named this bridge in the first place was done without local input and was done in a secretive manner. It was wrong then and it’s wrong now. The [state Department of Transportation] has the signs they could easily put them back up.
According to The Post, Andrew Cuomo “strong-armed legislators into greenlighting the ‘Mario’ moniker as part of a late-night legislative backroom deal to approve a catch-all omnibus bill in 2017, as the finishing touches were being put on the nearly $4 billion structure.”
In exchange for changing the name of the bridge to include the “Cuomo” name, the report noted “Republicans got retirement benefits for uniformed first responders injured on the job, a tax break for lower Manhattan real estate, and a three-year extension of county sales taxes for both upstate and New York City.”
“The idea of renaming it in the name of a politician – I don’t think it’s something that people support and there was no input in this,” said McGowan. “There was no public forum for people to have in order to share their thoughts before it was done – and it just kind of happened.”
Currently a change.org petition to strip the bridge of its “Cuomo” name and return it to its former title of “Tappan Zee Bridge” has secured 262,400 signatures.
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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “James Skoufis” by James Skoufis. Background Photo “Tappan Zee Bridge” by Antony-22. CC BY-SA 4.0.