The Williamsburg Bridge is one of New York City's many architectural gems. When it was completed in 1903, it was the largest suspension bridge span on the planet. Since then, it's been a vital connection between Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn neighborhood after which it is named. But a new campaign could give the 114-year-old marvel a new moniker: the Sonny Rollins Bridge.
Now, many may find themselves wondering, “Who the hell is Sonny Rollins?” Fortunately, one New Yorker is on a mission to answer that question. Since last spring, Jeff Caltabiano has been campaigning to rename the bridge after Rollins, one of the most influential jazz saxophonists of the 20th century. In 1959, then at the height of his career, Rollins went on a sabbatical from recording and touring to take up residency on the Lower East Side. Struggling to find a space to practice where he wouldn’t disturb his neighbors, he wandered out onto the pedestrian walkway of the Williamsburg Bridge. He practiced there regularly for two years in a stint that’s since become essential New York lore and the inspiration for Caltabiano’s campaign to rename the bridge.
That campaign has caught the attention of at least one City Council member. Stephen Levin of the 33rd district announced last week that he will be introducing legislation to name the bridge after Rollins. The move also has the support of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, according to Bowery Boogie.
The measure will need a lot more support in order to pass, but it does give some legitimacy to Caltabiano’s campaign, which until recently was mostly dismissed as a jazz fanatic’s pipe dream.