Councilman Introduces Bill to Rename the Williamsburg Bridge After Sonny Rollins

Posted on: October 18th, 2017 at 5:00 am by

For one Lower East Sider, the quest to rename the Williamsburg Bridge after Jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins just took a major step forward. City Council is now reviewing a bill that would make this happen.

In response to this community led effort, Brooklyn Councilman Stephen Levin introduced the bill, which is also supported by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. The legislation, still in its infancy, calls for the rechristening of the bridge to the Sonny Rollins Bridge.

Why, you ask?

Norfolk Street resident Jeff Caltabiano began spearheading the effort last spring, shining a light on the connection between the legendary musician and this East River span. Sonny Rollins once lived at 400 Grand Street, now buried beneath a fifteen-story tower for the Essex Crossing development (i.e. Site 5). While taking a two-year hiatus from recording and performing in 1959, the horn player would seek refuge on the pedestrian path of the East River span, as “I had no place to practice…my neighbor on Grand Street was the drummer Frankie Dunlop, and his wife was pregnant,” he wrote in the New York Times two years ago. “Nobody was there, and it was beautiful. I went to the bridge to practice just about every day for two years. Playing against the sky really does improve your volume, and your wind capacity.”

Caltabiano wants to make this musical footnote known. “For all of his brilliance, resilience, longevity, and humanity, we must honor Sonny Rollins, the Saxophone Colossus,” he said of the grassroots campaign to rename the bridge. “This project dreams that one day Mr. Rollins will once more step onto his bridge, The Sonny Rollins Bridge, and feel the freedom of the open sky.”

“I first listened to Sonny Rollins at the age of 13. His music and his story has stayed with me to this day,” said Councilman Stephen Levin, the bill’s sponsor.  “Looking around New York City you’ll see plenty of monuments to politicians,” he added. “You won’t see many monuments to cultural pioneers that embody the spirit of the city.”

Below is a short documentary piece about Rollins’ two-year sabbatical on the bridge, produced by the Rollins Bridge team.

What do you think of the effort?

Recent Stories

Uncapped: Beneath the Paint with the Legendary AUDIE U5

This latest installment of Uncapped is more than a year in the making, and we are stoked to have Audie U5 join us. BOWERY BOOGIE: Audie U5. Welcome to the series. Instead of the cherished and/or default “what do you write?” how about, why do you write “Audie?” Audie U5: Always Undeniably Dope In Everything!  Nah, […]

Man Jumped to His Death from Ludlow Street Rooftop

A man jumped to his death from a Lower East Side tenement rooftop Wednesday night. The unidentified man, believed to be in his twenties, took the plunge from atop 175 Ludlow Street at about 11:45pm. The suicide victim reportedly lived alone in a studio apartment there, according to a report in the Daily News. An […]

Here’s a Map Showing How the Lower East Side Voted in the City Council Election Last Week

With more than a week having elapsed since the general election, the above map plots the results of the City Council District 1 race. It was a heated campaign that saw incumbent Margaret Chin fighting for her life against the upstart Christopher Marte. Chin defeated Marte by nearly 3,000 votes to secure a third term […]

Cafe Henrie Shutters on Forsyth Street After 2 Years

Cafe Henrie, the artsy eatery founded by nightlife maven (and street artist) Andre Saraiva on Forsyth Street, closed earlier this week. Thus capping two years on the block. All elements of the establishment are gone, replaced with token brown paper in the windows. In retrospect, the writing was on the wall back in the summertime […]

What’s it Like Living or Working in Hell Square? [SURVEY]

What’s it like to live and work in Hell Square? That’s the question behind the second phase of the Hunter College graduate program study that analyzed public health and safety risk of liquor density on the Lower East Side. No, this isn’t a farce. It’s a legit effort to figure out a way to make […]