In Wave of Political Vanity, a Cherished Governor Becomes a Tunnel

The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel was officially opened on Monday. If you haven’t a clue where it is, don’t feel bad. It may mean that you don’t regularly drive into Manhattan, and that’s a good thing. There are too many cars in Manhattan as it is.

The Day

Clyde Haberman offers his take on the news.

You probably recognize a different name for the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, or the Hugh L Carey Tunnel as a giant new sign has it, with the period oddly missing after the L (for Leo). It used to be called the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. It went by Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel for six decades. Whatever that name lacked in lyricism, it made up for in geographic clarity. The tunnel connects Brooklyn and the Battery. What more did you need to know?

Now it bears the name of Mr. Carey, a widely cherished former governor of this state, who died last year at age 92. You can’t help but wonder, though, why anyone thought that a tunnel was the right place for him.

O.K., he had his dark moments, like a tunnel. But he also had gusts of exuberance. He was partial, for example, to belting out the signature song from the Broadway musical “Annie,” a popular show during much of his governorship, which lasted from 1975 to 1982. “The sun will come out tomorrow,” Mr. Carey would sing. “Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun.”

Is a tunnel quite right for a fellow who extolled the sun? Sounds like something more suited to an admirer of “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” the Bob Dylan song.

In any event, the name change had been approved by the State Legislature back in 2010, with enthusiastic support from the governor at the time, David A. Paterson. It took a while to get various moving parts together for a formal dedication, but the gears finally meshed Monday at the Manhattan end of the – of the what? It’s hard to predict what New Yorkers will wind up calling it. Maybe the Hughie? Can’t you just hear a woman asking her mate as they near the tunnel, “Do we take the Hughie, Louie?”

Lt. Gov. Robert J. Duffy, who presided over the ceremony, had his own take. “It’s more than just a tunnel,” he said. “It’s about life. It’s about connectivity.”

That’s one way to look at it. Another is that, one by one, names that described in plain language the essence of major structures in this city are disappearing under the relentless bulldozer of political vanity. The phenomenon isn’t new. The East River Drive — guess which river it runs along? — added Franklin D. Roosevelt to its name long ago. But in recent years, this method of honoring one another has acquired new popularity among the politicians.

In 2008 the Triborough Bridge became the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, even though the murdered Mr. Kennedy’s relationship with the city was brief and tenuous. Years earlier, a stretch of the West Side Highway was named for Joe DiMaggio at the behest of former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who foisted his enthusiasm for the Yankees on the entire city. Before that, the Interboro Parkway morphed into the Jackie Robinson Parkway.

And last year the Queensboro Bridge, a k a the 59th Street Bridge of Simon and Garfunkel fame, took on former Mayor Edward I. Koch as a partner. While the original name didn’t disappear, it was eclipsed. The structure is officially called the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge.

You have to ask yourself where this trend will end, or even if it will end.

Will the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, its name unglamorous but straightforward, give way to Mr. Giuliani, or perhaps to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg or Mr. Paterson or former Gov. George E. Pataki or former Mayor David N. Dinkins? We suspect that former Gov. Eliot Spitzer is not destined to become a bridge or tunnel any time soon. Former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo could be. But he already has a pretty good deal. He got his name attached to the present governor, his son.

A case could be made that the living ought not have anything named for them. (Remember the Bernard B. Kerik Complex, the appellation that Mr. Giuliani and the future jailbird who was then his police commissioner vaingloriously slapped on the detention center in Lower Manhattan? Mercifully, that embarrassment didn’t last.) Perhaps it would be better as a general rule to let history, not political expediency, determine who deserves to be immortalized.

It must be said, though, that no one lucked out more than Mr. Koch. He is still with us, still able to haul out with justifiable pride this passage from “The Great Gatsby,” Chapter 4: “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.”

Poor Hugh Carey. Who is ever going to rhapsodize so elegantly about the sights that greet one upon emerging from his tunnel?


E-mail Clyde Haberman: [email protected]

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Foreign Language Profanity Lessons

Dear Diary:

Late one night, many years ago, I was on a train from Manhattan to Brighton Beach. I was alone in the car except for a group of five or six young men in work clothes who were enthusiastically conversing in what I supposed to be Russian.

Suddenly, out of the background of unintelligible chatter, came one of the most graphic and vulgar idioms English has to offer, followed by a burst of loud and happy laughter. That caught my attention.

The Russian conversation continued again until it was punctuated by an equally rude and explicitly insulting English expression and even more uproarious laughter. This cycle repeated itself several times and each time the laughter got louder as the men became more and more happily animated.

I realized that what I was witnessing was the time-honored tradition shared by all immigrants in a new country.

They were teaching each other the choicest obscenities their new language had to offer.


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No Prosecution of Lindsay Lohan in Hit and Run

Lindsay Lohan’s hit-and-run accident problem has gone away, in the wake of surveillance video that appears to exonerate her.

The actress was originally scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday on charges that, on Sept. 19, she hit a man’s leg as she drove a sport utility vehicle outside the Dream Downtown Hotel in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, then went inside the hotel for a couple of hours, thereby leaving the scene of an accident.

But Ms. Lohan’s court appearance is no longer on the calendar, and a law enforcement official said on Monday that “prosecutors are not moving forward” with the case.

The man Ms. Lohan was accused of hitting, Jose Rodriguez, told reporters he had suffered torn tendons in the encounter.

But a murky security video released by the police the day after the accident appeared to show Mr. Rodriguez, walking quickly into the parking garage afterward.

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Charges Dropped Against Man Seen Beaten by Police in Video

The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, dropped all criminal charges on Monday against a young man whose arrest inside a Jewish community center in Brooklyn led to allegations of police brutality.

Police officers stated in a criminal complaint that the man, Ehud Halevy, 21, attacked them, causing one to suffer a sprained wrist, during an Oct. 8 encounter inside the Alternative Learning Institute for Young Adults on East New York Avenue in Crown Heights. Mr. Halevy was charged with a felony count of assault on police officers and a slew of other charges, including resisting arrest and criminal trespass.

But a video of the arrest, posted on the Internet last Sunday, showed two officers from the 71st Precinct repeatedly striking Mr. Halevy, and casting doubt on the officers’ version of the incident. While the video shows Mr. Halevy trying to pull away from Officer Luis A. Vega and using his arms to break free, it does not show him striking either officer.

Mr. Hynes informed Mr. Halevy’s lawyer, Norman Siegel, of his decision to drop the charges during an afternoon meeting, and issued a statement, of one sentence, announcing the dismissal of the charges.

“We are very pleased,” Mr. Siegel said. “Justice was done.”

Mr. Siegel said he had asked the district attorney to bring criminal charges against the two officers, pointing out that it was a misdemeanor for the police to make “false statements.”

“There were numerous inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the criminal complaint,” Mr. Siegel said. “Why is the complaint not accurate? That in and of itself is a Class A misdemeanor.”

Mr. Hynes did not say whether he would take any action against the officer, merely telling Mr. Siegel that the investigation was continuing, according to Mr. Siegel. Mr. Siegel also said that he would ask Commissioner Kelly to bring disciplinary charges against the officers.

The charges against Mr. Halevy are expected to be formally dropped during a court hearing Wednesday morning, Mr. Siegel said.

The surveillance video, taken by a camera in the center’s lounge, shows Officer Vega assuming a boxer’s stance and punching Mr. Halevy in the head in successive blows and his partner, Yelena Bruzzese, striking Mr. Halevy with a baton for more than two minutes.

After viewing the video last week, the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau and the district attorney’s office opened separate investigations. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly placed Officer Vega on restricted duty.

Officers Vega and Bruzzese were responding to a 911 call of a dispute inside the youth outreach center. The police call was made by a center volunteer who told officers that he had found Mr. Halevy sleeping naked on a couch in the lounge and that he refused to leave. The center volunteer, according to the criminal complaint, said Mr. Halevy did not have permission to sleep there.

However, in a later interview, Rabbi Moishe Feiglin, a director at the outreach center, said Mr. Halevy had been given permission to sleep at the center and had been spending nights there for about a month.

The video sparked widespread condemnation from community leaders who questioned how the officers had handled the arrest and whether the arrest should have been made to begin with.

Paul J. Browne, chief spokesman for the Police Department, declined to comment.

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