Keep Pat Moynihan's Name On His Final Grand Project

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's recently announced decision to rename Moynihan Station as the Empire Station Complex is ill-considered and should be re-examined. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was one of America's greatest public servants, conceived of and successfully championed the concept of creating a magnificent transportation hub on the site of the old Penn Station in Manhattan, and his name should be permanently identified with it.

Pat Moynihan was the social conscience of the political right and the scorekeeper of the left. He was a liberal in his compassion for the severely disadvantaged, and a conservative in his search for effective solutions. His incorruptible devotion to the public good was universally acknowledged.

Our cars have seat belts and padded dashboards because of Pat Moynihan; Washington's redeveloped Pennsylvania Avenue is a source of national pride rather than a national embarrassment because of his efforts. And his ambition to convert New York's Penn Station from a civic predicament into an architectural triumph captured the city's imagination. Small wonder that after his death in 2003, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki announced that the new station would be named in Moynihan's honor.

Himself a middle-class child fallen on hard times because of the desertion of his father, Pat understood poignantly the importance of a stable family. And he never forgot the role government scholarships played in his undergraduate and graduate degrees.

On the 50th anniversary of his 1965 study "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action", the consensus of the groups that re-examined the report was that Moynihan was correct and prescient.

Unfortunately, the vitriolic attacks on him at the time for "blaming the victim" stifled any objective examination of the problem of children raised by poor single mothers. But Moynihan's insight that "poverty and social isolation of minority groups is the single most urgent problem of American cities" remains true to this day.

A classicist, he understood the ancient Greek word parrhesia (speaking truth at great personal risk), yet he always said what he felt should be said. His battle while he was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations against those who claimed that "Zionism is racism" irritated his State Department colleagues who thought he was rocking the boat. But he persevered and succeeded.

His opposition to the culture of secrecy in government antagonized many in the FBI and the intelligence community, but once again, he kept at it.

He was a prolific author. Columnist George Will once wrote that "Moynihan has written more books than most senators have read." It's no surprise that he was awarded 60 honorary degrees.

The forthcoming documentary American Visionary: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, which is being made with funds collected by the non-profit organization City Lore, Inc., will help keep his memory alive through interviews with Henry Kissinger, Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Chuck Schumer.

But we mustn't stop there. A society defines itself in various ways, most clearly through the heroes it honors and the values they express. Daniel Patrick Moynihan deserves to be so honored by being permanently identified with the grand New York transportation center he envisioned and successfully championed.

Rose, who was co-finance chairman of Moynihan's first Senate race in 1976, is the author of "Making a Living Making a Life."