Posts Tagged ‘Henry Hudson’

Don’t Rename the Bridge; Rename the River

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

Pete Seeger on the banks of his beloved Hudson River.

Pete Seeger on the banks of his beloved Hudson River.

I never met Pete Seeger, but of course this didn’t stop me from reaching certain conclusions about him. One such was that anyone who could sit down and write an anthem like “If I Had a Hammer” had to be a pretty great individual. Another was my sense that Seeger was a man who defined modesty.

Clearly I’m not alone in my appreciation of the life and music of Pete Seeger. Now, in the 11 days since he died at the age of 94, there have been calls by some of his admirers that the Tappan Zee Bridge be renamed in his honor. After all, they argue, Seeger lived in Beacon overlooking the Hudson River, which, farther downstream flows under the TZB and which will flow under its $14 billion replacement, whose construction has begun.

Link Seeger and the bridges? I think such a name-change would be a mistake. For one thing, we will probably never fully understand the extent of the disruption of the Hudson’s ecology during the construction and life spans of the two enormous bridges. Proponents of the Pete Seeger Bridge should remember that Seeger spent much of his life trying to achieve an unsullied, uncontaminated and unpolluted Hudson. I don’t believe he ever crusaded for the first TZB, or the one that’s being built now. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Moreover, I don’t imagine Seeger would feel especially proud of having his name superseding that of the Tappans, a family of Indians that lived in the areas surrounding Nyack when the Dutch arrived. And of course, his name would not include the word “zee,” from the Dutch for a wide sea. Unless they called it the Pete Seeger Tappan Zee Bridge, which would be ridiculous.

The Tappan Zee Bridge and its replacement span ought to remain precisely that.

But if we’re going to honor Pete Seeger by naming something for him, how about changing the name of the Hudson to the Pete Seeger River. After all, if it were not for him and the Clearwater project, the Hudson might be the same old befouled mess it was before Seeger and his friends decided to do something about it.

As far as Henry Hudson is concerned, he won’t be forgotten. There’s the Henry Hudson Parkway on the upper west side of Manhattan, the Henry Hudson Memorial Park in the Bronx, a 16-foot statue of Hudson atop a 100-foot column in the park, the Henry Hudson Bridge connecting the northern tip of Manhattan with Spuyten Duyvil in the Bronx, and Hudson Street downtown in the West Village.

We know Henry Hudson made four voyages to North America. He explored the river that would be named for him on his third visit. But the mystery of his fate developed on his fourth voyage, when he searched for northern passages to Asia.

He was in Canada, sailing on what would become Hudson’s Bay when his crew mutinied and took control of the ship. One account holds that the crew was weary and wanted to return to England but that Hudson insisted on continuing his exploration. The crew took the ship and set Hudson, his son, and seven crewmen adrift in a longboat. They were never heard from again.

Ultimately you have to wonder why the fuss about Hudson. After all he wasn’t exactly the first European to reach what would become New York. In fact, he arrived second, in 1609 – a full 85 years after Giovanni da Verrazzano.

“A very agreeable site,” Verrazzano wrote in his log as he entered the great harbor of the future New York, “located between two hills between which flowed to the sea a very great river.”

That would be the Hudson. Or the Seeger.