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Petition to Rename Williamsburg Bridge After Saxophonist Sonny Rollins Nears 5,000 Signature Goal

Williamsburg Bridge (photo by Global Jet via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Dec. 29, 2017 By Nathaly Pesantez

A petition in support of renaming the Williamsburg Bridge after Sonny Rollins, a famed jazz musician, is close to meeting its 5,000-signature goal after launching earlier this month.

The Change.org petition, created on Dec. 5 by the Sonny Rollins Bridge Project, has gathered more than 4,700 signatures from residents in 60 countries and throughout the United States hoping to rename the Williamsburg Bridge after the 87-year-old saxophonist who took a two-year sabbatical on it.

“We, the undersigned, support renaming the Williamsburg Bridge as the Sonny Rollins Williamsburg Bridge in honor of an outstanding New Yorker, the jazz legend Sonny Rollins, who practiced daily on the Williamsburg Bridge from the summer of 1959 to the fall of 1961,” reads part of the petition’s letter.

Jeff Caltabiano, head of the Project, launched the petition to generate more public support for his renaming initiative, which kicked off in March and built up steam over the course of 2017.

To rename the bridge, according to Caltabiano, would not only commemorate Rollins’ disappearance during a career high in the 1950s, where he took on a series of self-improvement measures, but would pay homage to a transformative experience that speaks to the spirit of New York.

“At that time, Mr. Rollins…through reflection and discipline, adjusted his path and purpose, becoming a model of self-determination and resilience for all New Yorkers,” reads the petition.

Sonny Rollins in 2011 (photo by tom.beetz on Flickr/Creative Commons)

The petition is directed to the New York City Council, the State Senate and Assembly, and community boards through the city. Councilmember Stephen Levin (D-Williamsburg) has already expressed his support for exploring the renaming months ago, and Caltabiano has also been in talks with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

“The story of Sonny Rollins and the Williamsburg Bridge is a distinctly New York cultural story,” Levin said in a statement. “It is a tale of transformation and transcendence.”

The petition comes as the city’s legislative body prepares for 2018, when it is expected that the legislation regarding the Williamsburg Bridge’s renaming will be deliberated on.

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