Home MTA Absurdity To honor a mayor, Maloney proposes a new name for 77th St.

To honor a mayor, Maloney proposes a new name for 77th St.

by Benjamin Kabak

Are these folks waiting at 77th Street or at the Ed Koch Station? (Photo by flickr user Ryan Vaarsi)

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.

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D.R. Graham February 4, 2013 - 10:05 am

When I heard this nonsense I had a solid chuckle. More proof that the council has nothing else better to do and borderline contributes nothing to NYC politics.

BBnet3000 February 4, 2013 - 10:09 am

He’s already got the 59th St bridge. One is (more than) enough for any one person.

LLQBTT February 5, 2013 - 9:54 am

And he got it while he was alive. A rare achievement.

John-2 February 4, 2013 - 10:09 am

You’d think the city would have learned from trying to force Avenue of the Americas down people’s throats that unless there’s a logical reason for people to associate a different name with a street, they’re just going to keep calling the street by it’s common name.

People ID 59th Street as Central Park South because it’s on the south side of Central Park. Unless they plan to mummify the former mayor and stick him at the entrance to the 77th Street station with a looped recording of “How Am I Doing?” playing through an attached speaker, area residents are not going to associate Ed Koch with the 77th Street IRT stop.

Kai B February 4, 2013 - 10:37 am

They should put a plaque in the station if they want to. But that’s about it.

Patrick February 4, 2013 - 10:52 am

A Councilwoman tried doing that to Hoyt-Schermerhorn for Michael Jackson, learned that plaques are prohibited

JB February 4, 2013 - 10:41 am

Hopefully this gets as much momentum as when the councilman/woman from Brooklyn tried to have Hoyt/Schemerhorn renamed after Michael Jackson a few years back (in that it grinds to a halt). Renaming stations that serve no geographical purpose is pointless…if they really want to honor him they can just put up an additional street sign dedicating that intersection. As mentioned, Koch already has a bridge named after him, that should be more than sufficient.

Jon Graf February 4, 2013 - 10:57 am

This is House Rep. Carolyn Maloney. She isn’t even on the City Council! She’s bored and needs something to do obviously.

Eric Brasure February 4, 2013 - 11:45 am

Why was this being reported on Channel 2 that the renaming was happening this morning? Local TV is, ironically, awful at covering local stories.

MadPark February 4, 2013 - 2:24 pm

Teevee is intrinsically awful, inaccurate and reinforces the worst in our citizenry. Turn it off and throw it out with the trash.

Eric Brasure February 4, 2013 - 2:42 pm

I’ll get right on that.

Someone February 4, 2013 - 3:31 pm

No, it’s just that local news is never reliable. You know local news…

BrooklynBus February 4, 2013 - 9:57 pm

Channel 2 also reported that Koch was responsible of ridding the subways of graffiti when he didn’t have anything to do with that.

Ben February 4, 2013 - 12:29 pm

What a waste of time and effort to “honor” someone who was a dubious asset to the city at best.

Frank B February 4, 2013 - 8:29 pm

Agreed; Ed Koch was a mediocre mayor; crime was a joke when he was in office; you’d get mugged going to the corner to mail a letter.

Ironically, my Grandfather was from Manhattan and lived in Queens; every time he went to visit his family, they drove over the 59th Street Bridge; it was always littered with potholes. When he’d hit them, my grandfather would sarcastically yell out,


When they slapped his name on that bridge, I rolled my eyes and thought of my grandfather; rolling over in his grave.

Someone February 4, 2013 - 12:30 pm

We already have a bridge named after him. Why do we need a subway station now?

Someone February 4, 2013 - 12:36 pm

Unless the street gets renamed Ed Kock Boulevard, this idea is not going to get any traction.

VB February 4, 2013 - 1:42 pm

“It should forever remain 77th St. until we no longer call the cross-street 77th.”

Simple! Just rename the street to Ed Koch St and they’ll rename the subway station too!

Andrew Smith February 4, 2013 - 3:04 pm

If I ever run for mayor, one of my platforms will be “no tricksy nomenclature.” Not only would I veto ideas like this (and have the police arbitrarily jail the folks who propose them), I’d also restore numbers to all the Uptown streets that have been named: Lenox, Powell, Douglas, CPW, Amsterdam, Columbus, West End, etc.

Even lower down, one street gets one name: 59th takes over CPS. 6th replaces AotAs would, too. Wooster would stay Wooster rather than turning into WSE and then University. Great Jones would stay 3rd. Broad wouldn’t become Nassau, nor would Vesey become Ann or Maiden become Cortland.

And there’d be no East-West divide on the streets. The numbers start at zero at one river and increase until they hit the next one.

The point of naming and numbering things is to make it easy. It’s a huge city. Most of the people who live in it don’t come from it and don’t stay more than a decade. Stop making it needlessly confusing for folks.

Someone February 4, 2013 - 3:38 pm

Um, you know there’s a reason why different portions of streets have more than one name, right? AotA is so named because it has plaques up and down the street that show all the different countries of the Americas on the streetlamps. Lenox Avenue, formerly was named Sixth Avenue but was renamed in honour of philanthropist James Lenox. CPW is named like that because it’s to the west of Central Park. All three names are purposeful.

The West-East divide is actually more useful because there are fewer numbers to go through on addresses, people can just start from Broadway or Fifth Avenue and find their way west/east. Starting at one river and ending at the other is a complicated process, especially because the island has different widths at different cross-streets.

Eric Brasure February 4, 2013 - 3:52 pm

Of your examples, both Avenue of the Americas and Lenox Avenue are both examples of what Andrew Smith is decrying: pointless vanity name changes that only serve to make navigating the city more difficult. In fact, Lenox Avenue is even worse because it was given the sidename of Malcolm X Blvd.

I agree with you that the East/West divide is useful, however.

Someone February 4, 2013 - 4:40 pm

Yeah, I agree, the convention of having different street names for different parts of the street is kind of complicated. But those names are also useful because a New Yorker can immediately tell which neighborhood they are in just by looking at the street sign (e.g. most New Yorkers know that Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Avenue is in Harlem.)

Frank B February 4, 2013 - 8:33 pm

Can’t you just look around yourself, see the pitiful amount of crime and poverty, and just KNOW you’re in Harlem ?

The only thing of use they ever did was divide the borough’s respective streetsigns into different colors. (Brooklyn: Black/White, Queens, Light Blue on White, Manhattan/Staten Island: Yellow/Black, The Bronx White on Dark Blue)

Those actually came in handy; when you were in Ridgewood or Marble Hill, it’d help to know you’d crossed the border into Brooklyn or The Bronx.

BrooklynBus February 4, 2013 - 10:00 pm

There’s no problem with Lenox Avenue having a different name from Sixth Avenue because it is not a continuous street. Confusion occurs if the street switches names and then switches back to the first name when it is continuous.

Kevin Walsh February 5, 2013 - 2:24 pm

Interestingly, all of 6th Avenue’s names have an “x” in them.

Someone February 5, 2013 - 2:40 pm

They also all have the letters “a” and “e”. It doesn’t matter.

Eric February 5, 2013 - 9:41 pm

“Avenue of the Americas” has a X in it?

Someone February 6, 2013 - 8:07 am

Sixth Avenue.

Kevin Walsh February 5, 2013 - 2:23 pm

AotA has had most of its plaques removed — most of them in the 1980s as it got lamppost replacements. The streets between Canal and West 4th, and W 57th and CPS (ah, 59th) still remain.

However, I also think the numbered avenues should have remained as is, even 9th, 10th and 11th north of 59th. As it is now you have small pieces of 9th and 10th in Inwood that were never renamed and are cut off by over 100 blocks from their main pieces.

Eric Brasure February 4, 2013 - 4:00 pm

If you really want to make things simple, renumber all buildings in Manhattan on a block number system. Never been sure why we’re the only major American city (that I know of) to not do this.

Alon Levy February 4, 2013 - 4:16 pm

The Manhattan system of numbered streets and avenues is much friendlier than block systems in which you’re supposed to figure out which street comes where.

And both are infinitely easier than Boston.

Eric Brasure February 4, 2013 - 4:43 pm

Oh sure, but not when used in conjunction with numbered streets.

What’s easier to find, 1123 6th Avenue or 4401 6th Avenue?

Bolwerk February 5, 2013 - 12:20 pm

The right way to do it is built-in cross streets in addresses. Queens does this somewhat well at times. 14-01 X Avenue would be near 14th Street and X Avenue (X would be a number on the Queens grid). The address practically tells you the cross street. Well, it’s great in theory, but in practice they screw it up with all kinds of exceptions.

Someone February 5, 2013 - 2:43 pm

This street being one of the exceptions, with both two-part and single-part addresses up and down that street.

Benjamin Kabak February 4, 2013 - 4:20 pm

Can we renumber Queens’ streets so we don’t have Roads, Streets and Avenues all criss-crossing in a nonsensical way before tackling Manhattan?

Someone February 4, 2013 - 4:25 pm

Well, at least Queens’ situation is better than Staten Island’s…

BoerumBum February 4, 2013 - 4:42 pm

Take 21st Ave to 21st Street to 21st Drive #AstoriaDirections

Eric Brasure February 4, 2013 - 4:45 pm

Queens is definitely the way not to do this, since the grid was superimposed by renaming a non-grid street pattern, but I will defend the Queens system by saying that there is a logic to it–it’s not “nonsensical”.



Boulevards, of course, don’t fit the pattern.

Someone February 4, 2013 - 4:49 pm

Agreed. Sometimes non-Queens residents could get confused, but it’s definitely not nonsensical- the pattern’s all laid out.

BrooklynBus February 4, 2013 - 10:02 pm

The only thing that is confusing in Queens is that the same street could be interrupted a half dozen times and sometimes all the streets go in one direction. I remember once looking for a parking space in Rego Park and had to travel around two miles to get back to where I started from.

Someone February 5, 2013 - 8:05 am

The streets in Rego Park aren’t normal; they run in a semicircular pattern.

Someone February 5, 2013 - 8:06 am

@BrooklynBus: So maybe that’s why you got confused.

BrooklynBus February 5, 2013 - 9:54 am

No. I wasn’t talking about the crescents. It was closer to Forest Hills around Austin Street just east of Yellowstone Blvd. I ran into streets that were all going south and east. Because of the interrupted streets because of the Long Island Railroad, it was very difficult to get around. You had to go all around the railroad or else cross over Queens Blvd which also is not easy to do to get back where you started from. Each alternative involved over a mile of driving when in a normal situation you woul just go around the block.

Joseph Steindam February 4, 2013 - 11:09 pm

As a Brooklynite, I have to say that Brooklyn is a worse offender than Queens. Probably stemming from the fact that it was previously 6 different towns, Brooklyn has numbered and lettered avenues and the following types of numbered streets: no prefix (Park Slope southward), North, South (Williamsburg), East, West (all of Midwood, Sheepshead Bay and more), and Bay (Bath Beach and Gravesend), and a random iteration of West 9th Street in Red Hook. Many of these are arbitrary and make no sense where they start and stop.

Plus, in nearly all of Brownstone Brooklyn (Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill out through Bed Stuy and Brownsville), the streets are named instead of numbered, making navigating without a smart phone or intense familiarity very difficult.

Kevin Walsh February 5, 2013 - 2:27 pm

That would work if there were a pure grid system in Queens, as there is in Manhattan. But Queens has a hilly topography so a strict grid couldn’t be implemented. Thus, 57th Avenue, 125th Street etc in Queens meander up and down against the latitude and longitude.

Frank B February 4, 2013 - 8:37 pm

Andrew, I agree with you 110%; this nonsense about naming infrastructure which belongs to the citizens after politicians and notable figures throughout history is nonsensical, and adds confusion; when you’re Mayor, will you please restore the official names of Triborough, Queensborough, Brooklyn-Battery, and Interborough to our infrastructure, that politicians have named after themselves in an ultimate act of self-importance and hubris?

Oh, and take down those stupid “Avenue of the Americas” Signs already. “6 AV” is more than sufficient; 8th, 9th and 10th Avenues should be restored as well, thank you.

Oh, and “Park Avenue South”! I can’t tell you how many letters have gone to the wrong place because “S” wasn’t added to the end of “Park Avenue”. Restore 4th Avenue!

BoerumBum February 4, 2013 - 3:19 pm

Sounds expensive

Jerrold February 4, 2013 - 4:39 pm

Note the following station names:

53 St./5 Ave.
53 St./Lex. Ave.
63 St./Lex. Ave.
42 St. – Times Square
42 St. – Bryant Park

THAT is what they should do with station names.
Include the cross street or landmark, NOT some famous person.

How about, for instance:

23 St./8 Ave.
23 St./7 Ave.
23 St./6 Ave.
23 St./Broadway (or 23 St./5 Ave. or 23 St./Flatiron Bldg.
23 St./Park Ave.
23 St./

Jerrold February 4, 2013 - 4:41 pm


Note the following station names:

53 St./5 Ave.
53 St./Lex. Ave.
63 St./Lex. Ave.
42 St. – Times Square
42 St. – Bryant Park

THAT is what they should do with station names.
Include the cross street or landmark, NOT some famous person or corporate sponsor.

How about, for instance:

23 St./8 Ave.
23 St./7 Ave.
23 St./6 Ave.
23 St./Broadway (or 23 St./5 Ave. or 23 St./Flatiron Bldg.
23 St./Park Ave.

Someone February 4, 2013 - 4:44 pm

It’s already pretty obvious which cross street the 23 Street stations are under; one can just tell by the name of the street above the line (on the map.) One can also tell by the name of the trunk line. For example, since N/R run on the Broadway Line, it’s obvious that the 23rd Street station is at the cross street of 23rd and Broadway.

The 23rd, 28th and 33 St stations on the Lex Ave line are oddballs, but each station is 1 block away from Lexington Avenue, so it isn’t significant.

Jerrold February 4, 2013 - 6:25 pm

It’s obvious to US.
Maybe not obvious to everybody who lives here, depending on how long they have been here and other factors.
And not obvious to visitors.

Jerrold February 4, 2013 - 6:36 pm

And, coming to think of it, how about lines that “change places”?
Like north of Times Square, when the uptown 7th Ave. IRT is now on Broadway, and the uptown Broadway BMT is now on 7th Ave.? (At least for the next two stations.)

Maybe you and I learned all that shortly after we learned our A B C’s (no pun intended). But not everybody who’s here did so.

Someone February 4, 2013 - 7:53 pm

That’s why they conveniently have the name of the road above the line pasted next to the line.

The name “Seventh Avenue”, for example, is pasted next to the 1/2/3 south of 42 Street, and pasted next to the N/Q/R north of 42 Street.

Here’s a map.

Someone February 4, 2013 - 7:54 pm

For some reason, the station 5 Ave-59 Street is erroneously under 60 Street.

Frank B February 4, 2013 - 8:43 pm

I think that’s so they could fit the road line for the 59th Street Bridge; also, the BMT 60th Street tunnel may curve a block south after entering Manhattan, but as you can see from its name, it actually runs under 60th Avenue.

Frank B February 4, 2013 - 8:43 pm

I think that’s so they could fit the road line for the 59th Street Bridge; also, the BMT 60th Street tunnel may curve a block south after entering Manhattan, but as you can see from its name, it actually runs under 60th Street.

John-2 February 4, 2013 - 8:54 pm

East end entrance at Fifth Avenue is on 60th Street. The west end exit is on 59th Street Central Park South between Fifth and the Avenue of the Americas Sixth Avenue. So it’s actually on a diagonal between both streets, but if the BMT had gone by its original plan, 59th and 60th streets both would have had entrances on Fifth Avenue. And at Lexington.

Jerrold February 4, 2013 - 9:15 pm

The N/R train platform whose signs say Lexington Ave./59 St. is actually under 60th St.
Most likely, they did that to help passengers realize that this is where they can transfer to the 4,5, and 6.

LLQBTT February 5, 2013 - 9:57 am

Perhaps we can spend $4 billion to move it for you?

Someone February 5, 2013 - 10:48 am

Or, you can just rename 5 Av-59 St to 5 Av-60 St. Same thing with the Lexington Avenue station.

John-2 February 5, 2013 - 11:14 am

Or they could change it to the above-ground area’s official name. But then that would really confuse people, who would wonder how then ended up on the IRT in Brooklyn….

Someone February 5, 2013 - 4:59 pm

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. “We’re at Grand Army Plaza- wait a minute, this is Central Park. I wanted to go to the one in Brooklyn…”

BrooklynBus February 4, 2013 - 10:06 pm

Ben, I wonder what legalities are involved in all this. Let’s say the City Council passes a resolution (or law?) renaming the station. I don’t think the MTA would have to comply because they are a state agency and not bound by City laws. But since the City actually owns the subways, would they have any legal recourse to force the MTA to do the renaming if they wanted to?

Phantom February 5, 2013 - 7:04 am

NO to renaming ANY more of our public spaces after any politicians, alive or dead.

Even for good ones like Ed Koch.

Bolwerk February 5, 2013 - 12:28 pm

I wouldn’t go that far, but I really think we should wait a good half century after both deed and death* before naming things after people by public proclamation.

Also, Koch is overrated. Other than having a snappy made-for-TV personality, there isn’t a lot to say for him besides that he could have fucked things up more.

* truly, if NYC mayors were great, they’d combine the two into one event!

Someone February 5, 2013 - 7:42 pm

* Or, the MTA could just rename the 59th Street station, two stops away, the Ed Koch Bridge station!

Bolwerk February 6, 2013 - 10:46 am

Let’s put Ed Koch on the $3 bill, okay?

Patrick February 6, 2013 - 1:30 pm

Got anymore creative ways of saying “attach ‘Koch’ or any form of his name on nothing else?”

Bolwerk February 6, 2013 - 2:02 pm

Nothing else? We should take it off the 59th Street Bridge while we’re at it. I don’t care if someone thinks Ed Koch is better than Jesus. It’s just wrong and unfair to the entire city to appropriate an iconic landmark for the aggrandizement of a relatively contemporary politician, no matter how good he is.

Someone February 6, 2013 - 3:50 pm

Anyway, if Koch were so great that someone wanted a train station after him, why not name a station after LaGuardia? Or Giuliani?

Bolwerk February 6, 2013 - 5:01 pm

I think they’re all fuckups, honestly. LaGuardia is the one who inaugurated New York’s official policy of constructing its own decline, destroying streetcars, underfinancing subways, and encouraging highways. That he’s so popular can probably be chalked up to the history of that period being written by Keynesian liberal reformers who appreciated his public works (well, Moses’, actually). Giuliani was/is a self-aggrandizing authoritarian thug. I’m not a big fan of Koch’s ideology, though as mayor he was actually unusually competent.

NYC mayors almost universally suck. That Bloomberg is one of the better ones in living memory kind of says it all.

LLQBTT February 5, 2013 - 9:56 am

This re-naming stuff, whether in memorium or for corporate promotion, is getting totally out of hand!

petey February 5, 2013 - 3:50 pm

under no possible circumstances should 77th street, or any other station, be renamed in this or any universe for koch or anyone with the same name. at all. ever.


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