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

Missed Paradise: Street Art Gets Buffed as Billboard Rises on Prince Street

Those anti-looting plywood barriers are coming down as stores are finally reopening. For street artists, though, it’s a mad scramble to reclaim the work they created to beautify the blight. Many artists continue to petition management of buildings, store owners, or simply salvaging them from the trash. Others are still producing work on the storefronts that […]

Velvette Brew Espresso Bar Opens on Stanton Street

Over at 85 Stanton Street, two years of vacancy just concluded. A new espresso bar is now on the grounds. As previously reported, this spot is the maiden Manhattan location for the Brooklyn-based Velvette Brew. (We’re told that the Prospect Park coffee shop closed in favor of the Lower East Side.) The former boutique is […]

Knife-Wielding Bike Thief Apprehended by Customers at Cluck’s Chicken on Essex Street

A would-be bike thief was apprehended at Cluck’s Chicken on Essex Street, then pulled a knife, police said. Last Monday (July 27), the victim parked his electric bike near the entrance and walked to the rear. Soon after, at roughly 2:45pm, there was a commotion as the suspect attempted to make away with the $1,500 […]

Rosario’s Pizza will Look for a New LES Location

Losing Rosario’s Pizza, much like its old neighbor Bereket, is the elimination of yet another connection to the old Lower East Side. The pizza joint held down the northwest corner of Orchard and Stanton Streets for more than twenty years, and spent the preceding decades just around the corner. However, the retirement of manager/owner Sal […]

Captain and Owners Arrested for Liberty Belle Booze Cruise off Pier 36

The captain and owners of a popular Manhattan party boat were arrested for defying coronavirus social distancing mandates and embarking on a crowded cruise, authorities said Sunday. Shortly after 8:00pm Saturday night, the Liberty Belle, a four-story river boat with a capacity of 600 people, left Pier 36 (Basketball City) for a booze cruise. More […]