The Irony of Naming the Triborough Bridge After RFK

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Candace Bushnell has had the same face for years. Photo: Global Jet's Flickr

The Triborough Bridge will be formally renamed for Robert F. Kennedy on November 19, after decades of advocacy by the slain New York senator’s family. But there’s no reason to think Kennedy, an environmentalist before his time, would have wanted his name associated with the notorious bottleneck site. "He believed, appropriately, that cars didn’t belong in New York," says Columbia historian Kenneth Jackson, who opposes the renaming. "And with the MTA facing a billion-dollar deficit, I think Bobby Kennedy would be calling for us to find ways to save the planet and run more buses and subways rather than spend money to change signage." As a senator, Kennedy pushed for mass-transit funding. "We need to substitute mass transportation for individual cars if we are to obtain a significant reduction in the amount of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon in the atmosphere," he said in 1967. Robert Kennedy Jr., a potential EPA chief in the Obama administration, admits the irony but says his dad would have appreciated the honor. And transit advocate Gene Russianoff sees a silver lining: "I think Kennedy would probably have appreciated that the revenue from the tolls paid by every car that goes over his bridge will go to subsidize mass transit."