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A Bridge for Jimmy Breslin?
March 27, 2017
So how should New Yorkers commemorate Jimmy Breslin, who died last week at age 88?
Well, what about naming something for perhaps the greatest newspaper columnist of the 20th century? Perhaps something connected to his hometown — Queens.
We already have the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, named after the former governor, which replaced the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel; the Ed Koch Bridge, which replaced the Queensboro Bridge; the Jackie Robinson Parkway replacing the Interboro Parkway and the West Side Highway renamed as the Joe DiMaggio Highway.
There’s also the bizarre and mysterious transformation of the Triborough into the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, effected by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who said last week in a telephone interview, “I did it because they asked. It’s amazing what can happen if you ask for something.”
Spitzer said he acted after being contacted by the senator’s son, Robert Kennedy, Jr.
“Six months into my being governor, I got a call from Robert Kennedy, Jr., who said he had a request from the Kennedy family,” Spitzer explained. “I said, ‘Everyone thinks Senator Kennedy was a hero but are you sure that is what you want named after him?’ He said that is what the family wanted. It was an easy lift. It ultimately wound its way through.”
The following year, Spitzer resigned because of his involvement with a prostitute. His successor, David Paterson, finalized the deal in 2008.
Breslin also had a Kennedy connection. His most often praised column was that of the gravedigger of President John F. Kennedy.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who eulogized Breslin, had a Kennedy connection as well. He married Robert Kennedy’s daughter, Kerry, and they had three children. They subsequently divorced and, if you believe Michael Shnayerson’s book “The Contender,” there’s bad blood between him and the Kennedy clan.
In his eulogy, Cuomo talked about the closeness between Breslin’s family and his own. “The Cuomo and the Breslin families grew up together in Queens,” Cuomo said. “He would come to the house and sit with my father [former governor Mario Cuomo] at the kitchen table. … They would have a drink and talk for hours, railing against the injustices in life and the failures of the system … They were great crusaders for justice. Always on the side of the little guy. Dismissing the liberal elites and professional agitators, their true north was the common man.”
As Mayor Bill de Blasio can attest, Andrew is no marshmallow. He holds grudges. Would he consider renaming the RFK bridge, with its connection to Queens, after Breslin? Probably not. But he could rename something else.
“The idea is to find something for a great journalist that is metaphorically appropriate,” said Spitzer. “Something that is part of the culture of the city. Changing the name of the RFK Bridge is political. But what about the Whitestone Bridge? Or the Throgs Neck?”
Hey, what about the Kosciuszko?
Copyright © 2017 Leonard Levitt