May 4, 2022 By Christian Murray
A significant number of Queens leaders are willing to strip Ed Koch’s name from the Queensboro Bridge, according to the results of a recent questionnaire.
The local leaders—including State Sen. Mike Gianaris, Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani and Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—said they would support a name change when questioned by the Jim Owles LGBT Democratic Club, an influential organization that provides endorsements for candidates.
Other elected officials who would back Koch’s removal include Congressmember Carolyn Maloney and Grace Meng, with Hakeem Jeffries saying he was open to the idea.
State Sen. Jessica Ramos and Assembly Jessica González-Rojas are also in favor of removing the late mayor’s name. So too are Assembly Members David Weprin, Andrew Hevesi and Alicia Hyndman.
Congressmember Tom Suozzi, who represents a portion of eastern Queens and is running for governor, was one of the few New York representatives to fill out the questionnaire and reject the proposal.
The club sent out a lengthy questionnaire to candidates running for office and has posted the responses online.
The club asked a pointed question about the bridge, which showed clear derision for Koch. The premise of the question was also not substantiated.
“In view of the fact that Ed Koch has been documented to have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people with AIDS, and was blatantly racist, would you support a city bill to re-name the former Queensboro Bridge?”
“Do you authorize the use of your name for such a purpose?” the questionnaire adds, referring to whether the pol would be OK with his or her support being made public.
Most respondents answered in the affirmative.
The question was included in the questionnaire by Allen Roskoff, the leader of the club. Roskoff told the NYPost that Koch was a closeted homosexual who didn’t do enough to advance gay civil rights, including during the AIDS crisis, and therefore doesn’t deserve the honor.
The Queens Post was unable to reach Roskoff for comment.
The naming of the Ed Koch Bridge was controversial when it was passed by the city council in 2011, at the time of the late mayor’s 86th birthday. It had the backing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg as well as Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who was looking to replace Bloomberg as mayor and was allegedly seeking favor from the city’s Jewish community.
The renaming, however, irked then councilmember Peter Vallone, who represented Astoria. Vallone said Koch, a Manhattan resident, had limited connections to Queens.
“Mayor Ed Koch is truly a great man and deserving of an honor like this, but renaming a landmark so closely linked to our borough’s culture and history is not appropriate,” he told Queens Post at the time.
Community Board 2, which represents Sunnyside/Long Island City and Woodside, also opposed the renaming at the time arguing that Koch had little to do with Queens. Meanwhile, the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce also gave the renaming the thumbs down.
This time the controversy deals with civil rights, as seen by elected leaders through today’s lens.
The AIDS epidemic was personal to Roskoff who lost his partner Jim Owles, for which the club is named, to the disease.
Council Member Bob Holden was critical of the elected officials for stating they were willing to scrap Koch’s name.
“Ed Koch cared deeply about this city and was the quintessential New Yorker,” Holden told the Queens Post. “It was a difficult time to be mayor. He inherited a terrible mess and had to make tough choices in a fiscal crisis, when there was no way to please everyone. But he did the job. His name should stay. The move to ‘cancel’ him is absurd.”
Let’s start with restoring the Tappan Zee. It should never have been renamed and the original name should have stayed with the new bridge.