Bella Abzug finally gets her way — on Bank St.

Photos by Tequila Minsky
At the unveiling of Bella Abzug Way, from left, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Liz Abzug, Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Eve Abzug and Borough President Gale Brewer.

BY TEQUILA MINSKY | Bella Abzug, the outspoken congressmember and longtime Village resident, is getting her way — Congresswoman Bella S. Abzug Way, that is — on the corner of Bank St. and Greenwich Ave., just a block from where she lived for more than two decades.

The street co-naming and tribute at the end of last month came almost 20 years to the day, March 31, 1998, that she died.

A champion for women and progressive causes, this three-term congressmember represented Greenwich Village and other parts of the West Side. In her honor, with reverence and fondest memories, family, friends, fans, former constituents and local politicians celebrated the occasion.

Bella, as she was known by all, served in Congress from 1971 to 1977. At the first meeting of the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971, which she co-founded, she spoke about transforming power and the need for more women and black representation.

Committed to marginalized groups, she introduced the Equality Act of 1974 to protect gay people’s civil rights. She wrote legislation making it illegal to discriminate against women trying to get financial loans. And she co-authored Title IX to prohibit discrimination based on gender for schools programs receiving federal funding.

Bridget Burns, co-director of WEDO (Women’s Environmental and Develop Organization), which was co-founded by Bella Abzug, at the Congresswoman Bella S. Abzug Way street co-naming ceremony.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson led off the street ceremony.

“Bella was truly ahead of her time, championing issues like gay and civil rights well before many of her peers,” he said. “Those issues are still very much relevant today.”

Daughters Liz and Eve Abzug shared recollections of their mother. Liz, who is also trained as a lawyer, runs BALI, the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute.

“She understood what was needed to get women elected and into top positions of political power,” she said.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer is Bella Abzug’s cousin.

“She was a tireless, tough-as-nails trailblazer, who embodied the very best of New York and never hesitated to speak out,” he said.

Terri Cude, the chairperson of Community Board 2, gave remarks while fittingly wearing a hat. The late Abzug was famous for her eye-catching, often big broad-brimmed hats. At left, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Abzug’s daughter Eve listened.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer shared anecdotes and noted that “What Would Bella Do?” used to be a mantra for many politically involved younger women.

Abzug unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 1976 and left the House in 1977. Although she never held elected office again, she remained dedicated to social action. In 1991, she co-founded Women’s Environment and Development Organization, or WEDO, still going strong today.

Bella Abzug’s co-naming street sign was unveiled after her family and friends pulled a string attached to a brown paper sleeve that had hidden it from view until the ceremony.

A New York City native, Abzug opened her first law office in 1947 and began a civil rights and labor law practice.

When she first ran for Congress in 1970, she opened an office at the Duplex, at Christopher St. and Seventh Ave. South.

She later moved to 37 Bank St. where she lived and worked for more than 20 years. Her work was informed by frequent chats with her Bank St. neighbors and others from this community. She was often seen right outside her building speaking to people and getting input from constituents on the issues of the day or just spending time with her family. She was a regular at many West Village establishments, including the Waverly Inn and Casa Di Pre.

Villagers are thrilled that their champion Bella Abzug is getting her long-overdue “Way.”

Abzug later moved to 2 Fifth Ave., where she was neighbors with Ed Koch, and where each has an honorary plaque by the front door.

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