The politically star-studded ceremony was held in Astoria Park before a motorcade of vintage cars traversed the span to celebrate the legacy of one of New York’s great leaders of the 20th Century.
“This is a fitting honor for a truly great New Yorker,” said Elliot G. Sander, executive director and CEO of the MTA. “Connecting Harlem, the South Bronx, and Astoria, the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge is MTA Bridges and Tunnels’ flagship facility.”
The ceremony was attended by former President Bill Clinton, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor David Paterson, MTA executives, and a slew of Kennedys, including Ethel Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Kerry Kennedy.
“I’ve never met so many Kennedy’s in my life,” said Bloomberg, shortly after the ceremony.
Though Robert F. Kennedy was a beloved public figure in New York City, not everyone is thrilled with the name change. Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. is frustrated by the MTA’s decision to spend millions of dollars changing the signage on the bridge at the same time they are calling for cuts in subway service city wide.
“Robert F. Kennedy was a great man, but this isn’t the time,” he said. “While one agency that gets money from the state is raising fare and cutting service to the neighborhood at the foot of the bridge, another has somehow found a way to spend millions of dollars on changing the signage of it.”
In addition to the change in moniker, the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge is currently undergoing a $1 billion rehabilitation that includes the strengthening of the superstructure and replacement of its entire roadway deck and the addition of a new ramp from the viaduct to the island below it. Future enhancements include the replacement of the toll plazas and improvement of the Manhattan-side ramps.