To honor a mayor, Maloney proposes a new name for 77th St.By
When a water main broke in Manhattan on Friday, initial reports highlighted a quirk of the New York City subway’s station naming convention. The first stories spoke only of a problem at 23rd St., but for a few minutes, not a single news outlet named which 23rd St. station. With five subway stations all carrying the 23rd St. moniker arrayed along the street in Manhattan, it was a prime opportunity for confusion.
Across the city, similar situations exist as subway lines stop at major cross-streets and popular intersections, but by and large, station names are indicative of the streets they’re on. Need to get to Chelsea? Take the A, C or E to 14th St. Looking for Brooklyn Heights? Get thee to Clark St. While some cities — D.C. comes to mind — feature station names with neighborhoods, areas and tourists attractions all shoved into one giant sign, New York has gone for simplicity and geography.
Now, though, name creep has seemingly begun, and we can point to Ed Koch for that one. According to reports this morning, Rep. Carolyn Maloney and city politicians are leading an effort to convince the MTA to rename the 77th St. station in honor of the late former mayor. Maloney says 77th St. was Koch’s favorite station — perhaps due to the number of donors who lived in the area — and the City Council will take up legislation to call for a new name for the station.
I can’t imagine much will come of this even if the City Council passes such a symbolic resolution. It isn’t ultimately up to the City Council what subway stations will be named, and one MTA spokesperson said to me via Twitter, simply that the agency isn’t going to rename a subway station after anyone, living or dead, famous or not. It should forever remain 77th St. until we no longer call the cross-street 77th.
Outside of the supposed honor, there is also a cost. Station signs would have to be reprinted; maps would have to be updated; and the prerecorded announcements used in the rolling stock along the Lexington Ave. line would have to re-recorded. None of this is free.
This move, of course, isn’t the first time current politicians have proposed naming something after Koch. The span across the East River immortalized in song by Simon and Garfunkel is officially the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, but no one really uses that name. As The Wall Street Journal reported, most New Yorkers can’t be bothered with the change. “What bridge?” one Queens resident said. “The Queensboro Bridge? Because that’s the Queensboro Bridge. Maybe the 59th Street Bridge. I never heard it called the Ed Koch Bridge before.”
Meanwhile, a few months ago, the move to rename the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel after Gov. Hugh L. Carey drew derision as well. We don’t need to name our infrastructure after people, and we shouldn’t remove helpful indicators of location from station names. Ed Koch has a bridge; he doesn’t need a subway station as well.