City, state, and federal officials gathered last week to officially name the 151-foot walkway that leads from Wonderland Station to Revere Beach the Christina and John Markey Memorial Pedestrian Bridge.
Some residents, though, are questioning the process that led to naming the new $20 million bridge after the parents of US Representative Edward Markey, who helped secure funding for the project. Markey and his parents are from Malden, and while they visited the beach often, they never lived in Revere.
“No one knew anything about it. There should have been public debate on it,” said Ed O’Hara, a former Revere city councilor, who believes the bridge should have been named after a Revere resident.
On a recent day, Bob Runko sat in his truck along the beach and stared at the newly dedicated bridge. “It should have been named after a person from Revere,” said Runko, who grew up near the beach. It’s in Revere, and residents will be using it.”
Christina M. Markey died in 1988, and John E. Markey in 2000.
This is the second honor Markey’s parents have received in recent years. In 2009, the city of Malden dedicated the John and Christina Markey Malden Senior Community Center in a former church located on Washington Street.
The bridge, which some call “the mini-Zakim” because of its resemblance to the larger span over the Charles River in Boston, is part of an $80 million project at Wonderland. which includes a new parking garage and bus station, and a new pedestrian plaza and walkway that lead to the bridge and the beach.
The project is expected to be completed in the spring, and is expected to spur as much as $500 million in private investment along the subway station and beach. Already, a 300-room hotel and a 143-unit luxury apartment building are planned for the area.
After last week’s dedication, Markey said he was pleased that Revere named the bridge after his parents.
“My grandparents, who got off the boat from Ireland, took my mother and her four sisters to this first free public beach in the history of the United States, and my mother and my father took my brothers and I to Revere Beach,” said Markey. “It was the place where we had access to the ocean, to the beach, to all of the recreational opportunities that families of great wealth had.
“And finally, when my mother contracted Alzheimer’s, it’s where my father would drive my mother to sit on a blanket on the beach and it would always calm her down and it brought back happy memories. And so for 100 years this beach has played a very important part in my family.”
The decision to honor Markey’s parents was made official in May, when Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill sponsored by Revere state Representative Kathi-Anne Reinstein.
Reinstein said former Revere mayor Tom Ambrosino had asked her to file the bill because Markey had lobbied hard to help obtain the $20 million in federal funds for the bridge.
Ambrosino, who left office last year and is now executive director of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, said the bridge could not have been built without the efforts of Markey.
‘It should have been named after a person from Revere. It’s in Revere,and residents will be using it.’
“There was no one more instrumental in getting that bridge built than Congressman Markey,” said Ambrosino.
“It was his extra advocacy for us that made that happen; it was above and beyond what you’d expect your congressman to do, and we thought that was an appropriate way to express our appreciation to him, by naming the bridge after his mother and father.”
Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo also supported the naming of the bridge after the Markeys.
“That project is dead in the water without the help of Congressman Markey,” said Rizzo. “We just felt that this would be a small token of our appreciation for all of the hard work that he’s done.”
Some, like O’Hara, had hoped the city would name the bridge after Revere historian Peter McCauley or artist Norman Gautreau.
Reinstein said she had been working to name beach pavilions after the two men in 2011, before the money for the bridge had been appropriated.
That bill — to create memorials for the men along the beach — sat until this year, and was recently passed by the House and Senate.
Reinstein said she expects Patrick will sign the bill soon.
Markey thinks the federal funds used for the bridge and the rest of the Wonderland project will help create a thriving economy along Revere Beach.
“I believe that this bridge is part of a historically important redevelopment project for Revere Beach and the Wonderland Station . . . it will help to create a new Revere for a new century,” he said.Steven A. Rosenberg can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @WriteRosenberg.