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Triborough Bridge named after late Robert Kennedy

The state Assembly has voted to rename the Triborough Bridge, which connects Astoria to the Bronx and Manhattan, after former U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy and Gov. David Paterson is expected to sign the bill into law, said state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), who sponsored the legislation.

The bridge, which can be reached from Hoyt Avenue North in Astoria, opened in 1936, connecting the borough to Manhattan and the Bronx. Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer proposed to change the bridge's name in honor of Kennedy, the late U.S. senator for New York, in January and the Assembly voted last week to rename the structure.

The state Senate approved the measure in April.

Gianaris said Kennedy's family had long requested that the bridge be renamed to honor President John F. Kennedy's young brother, who was assassinated in 1968 after winning the California primary for the Democratic presidential nomination. He said the structure's new name would honor RFK's legacy on the 40th anniversary of his death.

"The bridge connects diverse minority and immigrant communities, and RFK's life's work was to give those types of people a leg up and help them channel their energy into a more successful life," he said. "I think it's appropriate for the bridge to be renamed after him."

State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said the renaming would be symbolic to his work with minority groups.

"Common throughout Kennedy's many works was an effort to bridge gaps among persons of diverse racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds," he said.

He said the bridge's signs would likely be changed from the "Triborough" to the "Robert F. Kennedy Bridge" shortly after Paterson signs the bill into law.

Gianaris said he did not expect much opposition to the new name because the Triborough would be completely renamed, rather than memorialized as is Manhattan's Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, which is also known as the "East River Drive."

"Things get confusing when you memorialize because [the structure] maintains both names," he said. "We renamed the 'Interboro Parkway' as the 'Jackie Robinson Parkway' and everyone seems happy with it."

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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