If memory serves, the abhorrent tradition began with the new, 20,000 seat sports/entertainment arena constructed in the Hackensack Meadowlands. Ordinarily, such monuments to popular culture are named in honor of a person (usually a public servant or military hero who served with great distinction) who, at least is dead – in most cases, for a decade or more. At least that’s the way it used to be.
But in 1981 all of that changed when the powers governing the new arena decreed that it should be named after Brendan T. Byrne – the sitting governor of New Jersey at the time:
Construction on a new arena across Route 20 (now 120) from Giants Stadium and the Meadowlands Racetrack began in 1977. The arena was designed by Grad Partnership and Dilullo, Clauss, Ostroki & Partners and was constructed at a cost of $85 million. Originally named Brendan Byrne Arena (after Brendan Byrne, the sitting governor of the state, who was also a member of the ownership group seeking to bring an NHL team to the State), the arena opened July 2, 1981, with the first of six concerts by New Jersey rock musician Bruce Springsteen. This was followed by an ice show later that month. While the official name of the arena was “Brendan Byrne Arena,” on television it was usually referred to as “The Meadowlands.”
Actually, that should read: Meadowlands Arena – and that is how just about everyone I know referred to it, because that is the name it should have received. Since then, the name has changed to Continental Airlines Arena and now it is called the Izod Center.
But a rung bell cannot be un-rung and soon the pernicious practice spread – much like a cancer – throughout the state. These days, everywhere you look a street, a municipal complex or a state building has been named after a political player who hasn’t yet graced humanity with his or her mortal departure from the here and now. And it always seems to be the most venal, corrupt, well-connected – and still living – politician who enjoys the ego boost of an encomium set forth in marble, granite or brass.
For that reason, I cringe whenever I have to take the NJ Turnpike north into Bergen County – because I know I’ll have to pass by the Frank R. Lautenberg Secaucus Rail Station. I know it’s the Frank R. Lautenberg Secaucus Rail Station because it says so in bold, capital letters plainly visible from the roadway. Only the blind or those texting while they are driving can miss it. Needless to say, the operative question is WHY? Why was this junction named after a doddering, super-annuated, political hack who thus far has managed to elude the bony grasp of La Morte?
The official answer is that Lautenberg played an integral part in securing federal funds for the project. That is to say, he successfully picked the pockets of taxpayers in 49 other states for the bling to build this station. So I guess it’s only fitting that it be named after him, right? After all, the mother of all arenas known to moderns as the Roman Colosseum was originally named the Flavian Amphitheatre in honor of the family name of the emperors who initiated and then completed its construction.
Enough of this Imperial Roman crap. We live in a republic – not an empire – and there was a time once when prudence dictated that a certain period transpire before the dead became the honored dead and therefore worthy of memorializing in brick or granite. In those halcyon days, the very thought of bestowing such memorials on those still living was anathema to both propriety and common sense.
With that thought in mind I propose the following:
1. Legislation in the New Jersey Assembly or Senate that (a) prohibits naming any state building, roadway or appurtenance after any living person and (b) requires that any candidate for such an honor have been deceased for no less than 10 years;
2. Legislation to rename the Frank R. Lautenberg Secaucus Rail Station after a person far more deserving of the encomium – in this case, a military hero who hails from New Jersey.
It’s up to you to contact your state Assemblymen or Senators regarding #1.
As for #2, click on the image below and sign the petition to rename the Secaucus Rail Station in honor of a true hero. My vote goes to John Basilone.
Make it happen, New Jersey. Last time I noticed, we were still a sovereign state…not a Roman province.