Designates a portion of the state highway system as the "Twin Cities Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway".
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the highway law, in relation to designating a portion of the state highway system as the "Twin Cities Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway"
PURPOSE OF THE BILL: The purpose of this bill is to rename the Twin Cities Memorial Highway to reflect the original intent of the 1970 law naming the highway to honor military personnel from the Cities of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda who died in Vietnam.
SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS: 1- Amends the Highway Law by adding a new § 344-c to designate a portion of the State highway system as the "Twin Cities Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway."
§ 2- Requires that the Commissioner of Transportation shall provide for the installation and maintenance of adequate signing of the State Highway System and that the designation of this portion of the State Highway System shall be ceremonial in nature and will not change the official name of the highway.
§ 3- Effective date.
JUSTIFICATION: The purpose of this bill is to re-designate a portion of the state highway system consisting of a portion of the arterial highway in the adjacent Cities of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda in Erie and Niagara Counties, respectively, as the "Twin Cities Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway."
Following the death of Pvt. Thomas J. Fox, the first North Tonawanda resident to be killed in action in Vietnam, the late Senator Earl W. Brydges was approached by a North Tonawanda resident to name the new Young-Division Arterial after Pvt. Fox. The Tonawanda Common Council noted that one of its native sons, Pfc. Ronald Sadler, had also paid the ultimate price in Vietnam and was deserving of a public honor. A joint Highway Committee was named with each city appointing three members to review the matter. According to newspaper accounts, committee members agreed that it would be "more appropriate to designate the highway in memory of all Twin Cities Vietnamese war dead instead of an individual." The committee's suggested name for the arterial was "The Twin Cities Memorial Highway" and it was requested that the Department of Transportation install plaques with the names of the fallen on both ends of the highway's bridge spanning the Erie Canal, which is the boundary between the two cities. Legislation was enacted with the suggested name, Twin Cities Memorial Highway (Chapter 650 of the Laws of 1970). With the permission of NYSDOT, stone memorials, paid for by each city, were placed at the Tonawanda and North Tonawanda entrance/exit ramps for the Twin Cities Memorial Highway at each end of the Erie Canal bridge.
Over the years, it became obvious that the memorials were isolated and not the tribute to the fallen that was originally envisioned. North Tonawanda was the first community to relocate its Vietnam memorial to Brauer Park near the city's World War I and II memorials. Later, the City of Tonawanda relocated its memorial to a spot along the Niagara River near City Hall and close to other veteran memorials.
With the Vietnam memorials relocated, there is no indication that the Twin Cities Memorial Highway was dedicated to those who served and died in Vietnam. Historical documents and newspaper accounts of the time clearly indicate that the expressway and the monuments were intertwined and "dedicated to the memory of those who made the greatest sacrifice in Vietnam." While the monuments still honor those who died in Vietnam, they stand far removed and unrelated to the expressway that was dedicated to the memory of those honored by the monuments.
With the beginning of the national Vietnam War Commemoration now in progress, it would be appropriate to formally re-designate the highway to truly honor the men from the Twin Cities who never returned from Vietnam by renaming the expressway the Twin Cities Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway.
Historical Note - The newspaper accounts of the time do not mention why the words "Vietnam Veteran" were never included in the formal name of the highway even though the intent to honor the fallen in Vietnam was clear. We can only surmise that the words were intentionally left out because of the unpopularity of the war and the effect it would have on passing the bill (S.9484) that named the highway. We must remember that in the late sixties and seventies, the nation was extremely polarized over the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Across the nation there were anti-draft protests, bombings and peaceful demonstrations that turned violent on city streets and on university campuses.
To put things in perspective, at the time the name of the highway was being debated by the Tonawanda and North Tonawanda Highway Committee, news stories of the day reported that the Army charged 14 officers with suppressing information related to the My Lai massacre and that a bomb constructed by members of the Weathermen and meant to be planted at a military dance in New Jersey exploded killing three members of the organization. When the bill naming the highway passed both houses of the Legislature and was signed into law as Chapter 650 on May 8, 1970, it was just days after U.S. forces crossed into Cambodia, threatening to widen the war, and four students at Kent State University were killed and nine were wounded by Ohio National Guardsmen at a protest against the incursion into Cambodia. And when the Tonawanda News ran a story announcing that the Twin Cities Memorial Highway would be open on Labor Day, 1971, it was placed next to a United Press International story with the headline "The Death Toll in Vietnam War is Now 50,000."
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: New bill.
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: Minimal.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect immediately.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 7223 IN SENATE May 6, 2014 ___________Introduced by Sen. MAZIARZ -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Transportation AN ACT to amend the highway law, in relation to designating a portion of the state highway system as the "Twin Cities Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway" THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. The highway law is amended by adding a new section 344-c to read as follows: S 344-C. PORTION OF STATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM TO BE DESIGNATED AS THE "TWIN CITIES VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL HIGHWAY". THE PORTION OF THE STATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM CONSISTING OF A PORTION OF THE ARTERIAL HIGHWAY SYSTEMS IN THE CITIES OF NORTH TONAWANDA AND TONAWANDA IN NIAGARA AND ERIE COUN- TIES, RESPECTIVELY, AND LYING GENERALLY BETWEEN ERIE AVENUE AND WHEAT- FIELD STREET IN THE CITY OF NORTH TONAWANDA AND THE HIGHWAY KNOWN AS YOUNGMANN HIGHWAY IN THE CITY OF TONAWANDA SHALL BE DESIGNATED AND KNOWN AS THE "TWIN CITIES VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL HIGHWAY". S 2. The commissioner of transportation shall provide for the instal- lation and maintenance of adequate signing of the state highway system as designated pursuant to section one of this act. However, to avoid confusion and to limit any possible disruption of commerce, the desig- nation called for pursuant to section one of this act shall be one of a ceremonial nature and the official name of such highway shall not be changed as a result of this act. S 3. This act shall take effect immediately.EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD13305-04-4