John Liu Emails to Complain About Ed Koch Getting a Bridge, Still Wants Sonny Carson to Have His Street

Shortly after city lawmakers voted to rename a bridge after former Mayor Ed Koch, they received an email from the City Comptroller, complaining of a “double standard.”

“I’m unable to hold back,” City Comptroller John Liu wrote in a 5:31 a.m. email addressed to City Council members.

In the email, Liu recalls a “tongue-lashing” he got from Koch when Liu spoke out in favor of renaming a street after Sonny Carson, a controversial proposal that sparked a major battle in the City Council, and was ultimately rejected. Critics said Carson was racist, and Liu broke ranks with many, siding with City Council members from Brooklyn and many of the African-American lawmakers, in supporting the Carson renaming.

It was a defining moment for Speaker Quinn, who took the extraordinary step of denying it, which later led to a vocal outburst from one City Council employee who threatened to “assassinate” the “ass” of an African-American City Councilman who didn’t support the renaming.

Anyway, the email from Liu shows he is more than happy to redebate that issue, and have it be part of the public conversation, should he ever cross campaign paths with anyone like Quinn (2013, perhaps).

On NY1 last night, Liu was asked about the email and the 1986 incident he refers to in the email.

“Koch made remarks that a lot of Asian-Americans felt were offense,” said Liu, who said he was in high school at the time. “The point of my email was to say there are parallels here and those parallels should not be forgotten,” Liu said.


Carson said some “stupid” and “racist” things but that local communities should decide who they honor, Liu said.


The full email, with sensitive information redacted, is here:

From: John C. Liu []

Sent: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 5:31 AM


Subject: Double Standards in Bridge / Street Co-Namings

Dear Colleagues,

I heard on the news last night that the bill, to co-name the Queensborough Bridge after former Mayor Ed Koch, passed committee yesterday and is on the Stated agenda today. Forgive my late commentary on this issue. Try as I have, I’m unable to hold back.

During my 2009 campaign for comptroller, Mayor Koch administered to me quite the tongue-lashing for my 2007 Council vote upholding a community board’s decision to co-name a street after the late Sonny Carson. Mayor Koch expressed his outrage that I would as a public official support such honor for someone he considered racist.

When I was finally able to get a word in edgewise, I reminded Mayor Koch that some considered his own 1983 comments about building a prison in Chinatown to be racist. And that as a public official, I would not necessarily deny him a co-name honor because of the occasional poor choice of words during a decades-long record, as was the case with Mr. Carson.

Thank you for your time.



John C. Liu


John Liu Emails to Complain About Ed Koch Getting a Bridge, Still Wants Sonny Carson to Have His Street