Give Jerry Orbach his street

I once met Jerry Orbach in 2000 on a NYC street - 49th and Broadway. He was familiar to us all as Lenny Briscoe, the detective on Law and Order. Seeing this celebrity, I stopped and said something silly like, "I love your show, watch it every night, keep up the good work." And like a gentleman he said "Thank you" and walked on.

Now his wife wants to have a nearby NYC street corner named for her late husband and she thinks she may get a hard time from the community board.

I say he deserves it. Give Jerry his street corner! The Times reports:
Jerry Orbach Was a Marquee Name, but a Street Sign’s Another Story

It is a tribute that has been paid to Peter Jennings, Humphrey Bogart, Joey Ramone, even Señor Wences. But getting a Manhattan street corner named for Jerry Orbach, former star of stage and screen and consummate New Yorker, will be no open-and-shut case.

Mr. Orbach may have been nominated three times for Tony Awards as a song-and-dance man on Broadway and he may have owned the role of the cynical New York City detective as Lennie Briscoe on “Law & Order.” But he still may not make the cut to have his name placed on a street sign in Midtown.

Mr. Orbach’s widow, Elaine, is learning that having a city block or a corner renamed for somebody is not as simple as the jumble of honorary signs might suggest. As in so many other matters of real estate, location may be the deciding factor.

Her target is 53rd Street and Eighth Avenue, where she and her late husband lived for 25 years before he died in December 2004 at age 69. “This was his neighborhood,” Mrs. Orbach said in an interview.

But that intersection is on the western edge of the territory overseen by Community Board 5, a group that routinely rejects such requests on principle. The board members generally prefer not to clutter up their district, which includes Times Square, with additional signs, said Gary Parker, the district manager.

Mrs. Orbach said she planned to take along her late husband’s 96-year-old mother, Emily, and one of his sons when she makes her appeal to the community board tomorrow evening. After hearing of the board’s general view, she said she wondered if she should also enlist some of Mr. Orbach’s friends and fans in the Midtown North detective squad.

James J. Fishman, a lawyer who is advising Mrs. Orbach, said, “My initial take on this was not to go with guns blazing, so to speak.” He added that he had encouragement and offers of support from city officials.

“They must know who he is and who he was and how much he loved this city,” Mrs. Orbach said of the board members.

She said that after seeing how quickly a block of West 66th Street was named for Peter Jennings, the ABC News anchor who died seven months after Mr. Orbach, she assumed that getting a corner renamed was mostly a matter of asking. That notion was reinforced, she said, when a stretch of West 103rd Street was named last summer for Humphrey Bogart.

Indeed, the City Council, which can override a community board’s advisory opinion, renames blocks and street corners in bunches. In October, it passed a bill to honor 64 people that way, many of them victims and heroes of 9/11 whose names would adorn signs in boroughs other than Manhattan. (These renamings, which the Council calls co-namings, are symbolic and do not affect the actual names of city streets.)

But Community Board 5 has taken a harder line. Two years ago, it rejected a request to attach Guy Lombardo’s name to a block of Vanderbilt Avenue, Mr. Parker said. It also disappointed supporters of Eddie Rickenbacker Way, at 49th Street and Rockefeller Plaza, he said.

“It’s no reflection of the person that is to be honored or the institution to be honored,” Mr. Parker explained. “It’s a concern about keeping the cityscape as clean and clear as possible.”

Still, Community Board 5 is not Mrs. Orbach’s only hope: The western half of the intersection rests within Community Board 4’s territory, so Mr. Orbach’s name could grace that side of the avenue.


Anonymous said...

On the subject of 'Law and Order' stars, do you know of a bump somewhere that could be called "Steven Hill"?

Anonymous said...

Jerry Orbach was a terrific actor and New Yorker, but why does that entitle him to a street name? There are likely more New Yorkers of such qualities than there are street names.