65° Good Morning
65° Good Morning
Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Billy Joel deserves a street in his name

Billy Joel takes the stage at Madison Square

Billy Joel takes the stage at Madison Square Garden in this file photo taken on June 20, 2015. Credit: Bruce Gilbert

Watch out, Albany.

Freeport just might be coming for you.

Because the mayor of Freeport -- home to Guy Lombardo Avenue -- said Monday he'd be more than happy to name a street after Billy Joel.

While Joel is alive. And very much still kicking it.

"If Billy Joel wants to come down to talk to me about it and it's OK with him, I'd be willing to put it before the village council on Monday," Mayor Robert Kennedy said in an interview. "I'd do it in a heartbeat."

Freeport knows something about honoring musicians for their contributions to community. Take Guy Lombardo, the big band leader who came to be known as "Mr. Freeport" -- in recognition of his local volunteer service and for the tourism Lombardo's celebrity status attracted to the village.

Lombardo, a Canadian and naturalized U.S. citizen, had a career that spanned 53 years with his internationally known dance band, The Royal Canadians.

In the 1950s, as rock and roll began to rise, Lombardo became a nostalgia act that, according to reports during the time, sometimes was derided as "Guy Lumbago."

At the instigation of the then-New York State parks commissioner, the master builder Robert Moses, Lombardo's career took on new life when he began producing musical shows at Jones Beach Theater.

On Monday, along Guy Lombardo Avenue, some Freeport residents said they remembered little other than his name. Others still could point out the canal where his house stood, and where a popular restaurant that he owned was located.

One said he still could remember Lombardo's grand entrance at the Jones Beach shows -- via boat, which the band leader boarded outside his Freeport home.

"It's important to Freeport that the world knows about Lombardo and his contributions," Kennedy said. Kennedy and other Freeport residents cited Joel and his contributions to Long Island, too.

"He did a lot for the baymen," one resident told me.

And what Lombardo did for Freeport in terms of volunteering locally and attracting international attention to the community, Joel now does for Long Island, several residents said.

But let's get back to Albany, where legislation to rename a quarter-mile stretch of state Route 107 in Hicksville Billy Joel Boulevard was first introduced in 2014.

It went nowhere that term, and nowhere during the term that just ended -- which means the legislation would have to be reintroduced next session.

There's a view among some state lawmakers that streets should be named after honorees die.

That's what happened in Freeport, where South Grove Street was named in Lombardo's honor in 1978, a year after the band leader's death.

Planner Robert Moses -- yup, Robert Moses State Park was named after him -- attended the Freeport street renaming ceremony. So did then-Hempstead Town Supervisor and later Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, who is very much alive -- and has a federal courthouse in Central Islip named after him.

Also among the living: Republican state Sen. Dean Skelos, who has a sports complex in his hometown of Rockville Centre named after him; former Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg, a Democrat whose bust is on display at the Long Beach recreation center; and state Sen. Kenneth P. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), whose name adorns Stony Brook University's main stadium.

Joel does have a park in Cold Spring Harbor -- the title of his first solo album -- named after him.

Which is one more reason why New York State doesn't -- and shouldn't -- have to wait to name a street after the artist.

But Freeport could end up moving first. Which would complete a kind of musical circle, too:

Every year, revelers in Times Square hear "Auld Lang Syne" -- which Freeport's Lombardo popularized as a New Year's Eve anthem.

Followed by a series of other more modern anthems -- among them Hicksville's Joel, and his "New York State of Mind."


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

Latest Long Island News