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Bella Abzug's Daughter Hopes To Rename Bank Street Corner For Late Pioneer

By Maya Rajamani | October 6, 2017 6:08pm | Updated on October 9, 2017 7:22am
 Bella Abzug.
Bella Abzug.
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Library of Congress

WEST VILLAGE — The street that the late Bella Abzug lived on for more than two decades could soon have a sign bearing the trailblazing former congresswoman’s name.

Abzug, the “feminist, antiwar activist, politician and lawyer” who represented Manhattan’s West Side in Congress in the 1970s, passed away in 1998 at the age of 77.

At a Community Board 2 meeting on Thursday, her daughter Liz Abzug presented a request to co-name the northwest corner of Bank Street at Greenwich Street “Bella S. Abzug Way.”

“My father, mother, sister — we were ardent Villagers,” said Liz Abzug, whose family lived on Bank Street, between Greenwich and West Fourth streets, for more than 20 years.

“She was ardently committed to the people and the businesses and the streetscape, and Bank Street was a street we all loved, and she dearly loved,” she added.

Bella Abzug, who attended Columbia University Law School, worked as an attorney focused on civil rights and labor rights in the early years of her career, her daughter said.

As one of only a few women in Congress in the '70s, the politician “turned the tide for women’s rights, labor rights, civil rights” and fought “for immigration… for democratic reform [and]... [for] the peace movement,” her daughter recalled. She helped to introduce the first federal gay rights bill in 1973, co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus, and introduced a fair credit act for single and unmarried women, she added.

“[Single or unmarried women] couldn’t get a credit card [in] their own name, and Bella corrected that,” her daughter said.

The politician also called for then-President Richard Nixon’s impeachment over the country’s involvement in Vietnam, she noted.  

“She was one of the most progressive congresspeople that existed in this country,” Liz Abzug said.

After the politician unsuccessfully ran for a Senate seat in 1976 and lost the 1977 Democratic mayoral primary to Ed Koch, she continued to fight for progressive ideals “'till the final day of her life,” her daughter said.

The day before the heart surgery that ultimately led to her death, Bella Abzug testified at the United Nations, as she “was doing a lot of international development work on behalf of women,” she explained.

“She testified for an hour, we pulled her off into the hospital, she had an operation the next day and she died a few weeks later — but she died with her boots on,” her daughter said, describing her as a “never-give-in, never-give-up kind of person.”

With the street co-naming, Liz Abzug — who runs the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute, which provides leadership training for girls throughout the city — said she hoped to keep her mother’s legacy alive.

“She cared deeply, deeply about the art, the artists and the community — the people that lived throughout the Village,” she said.

“Certainly in terms of women’s rights, community rights, civil rights, gay rights, in terms of peace, we couldn’t need this more than now — to have some symbols of people who fought for those issues.”