He may be immortal in the Yankee record books, yet he’s very much alive.
But the City Council decided to make an exception to its normal street renaming rules for retired New York pitcher Mariano Rivera on Dec. 10, when the body voted 47-0, with two abstentions, to co-name River Avenue between E. 161th and E. 162nd Streets “Rivera Avenue” after the legendary closer.
Rare rule change
The Council voted in 56 renamings in total at the Dec. 10 meeting. But all the others had at least one thing in common: the honoree was deceased.
In the Bronx, Thwaites Place and Barker Avenue will be co-named “Elias Karmon Way” after a longtime passionate Pelham Parkway local. The borough will also soon play host to a Mike Amadeo Way —Amadeo was a beloved Latin composer — and a Private First Class Carlos James Lozada Place in honor of a 21-year-old Bronxite who died in Vietnam.
On an afternoon when the Council reserved most of its drama for the landslide ‘yes’ vote on the Kingsbridge National Ice Center, “Rivera Avenue” got little fanfare.
No Councilperson voted against the Yankee great —who won five World Series title in pinstripes — netting his own street. Councilman Joel Rivera joked that he could never vote against a sign bearing his own name.
“Even a die-hard Met fan can recognize a classy job well done,” said Brooklyn Councilman Lew Fidler.
A loud abstention
Queens Councilman Peter Vallone, who joined Manhattan Councilwoman Jessica Lappin in abstaining, warned that the Council should never make exceptions to its street renaming rules.
“I’m going to have to rain on this parade,” Vallone said. “We should never name anything after a living person.”
Vallone has also been crusading against the renaming of the Queensborough Bridge after former Mayor Ed Koch.
Yet the new Rivera Avenue marks the second time this year that the city has named a street after a living baseball player. Mayor Bloomberg signed a bill in July that co-names two separate Harlem streets in honor of Hall of Fame former New York Giants centerfielder Willie Mays.
“If anyone deserves it, it’s him, but we’re setting a dangerous precedent here,” said Vallone at the meeting.
Local petition push
The pitch for Rivera Avenue came in September after a local Yankee fan etched a makeshift “A” onto the River Avenue sign one block away from the new Yankee Stadium. After the issue made headlines and local community groups organized petitions and rallies, Councilperson Maria Carmen Del Arroyo added Rivera Avenue to the list of street co-namings up for councilwide vote in December.
Now the street will live on for the rest of the retired Yank’s life, and beyond. Local businesses, many of which sell merchandise with Rivera’s name etched on the back, hope that the new Rivera Avenue will draw more customers.
“We’ve fought for a long time to redirect peoples thinking about this borough,” said Cary Goodman , executive director of the E. 161th Street Business Improvement District. “This will be a great boost to the area.”
Consider it a case closed.