POUND RIDGE, N.Y. -- New York Yankees fan Thomas Ferrara was standing at the Bronx corner of 161st Street and River Avenue where Yankee Stadium stands when the street sign's letters - R-I-V-E-R - inspired him to honor pitching great Mariano Rivera.
"By simply putting away the BlackBerry, and taking in the moment that Sept. 5 afternoon, gazing at the street signs at 161st and River Ave, adding the letter 'A' just naturally made sense. Divine inspiration," said Ferrara, a Bronx native who lives in Pound Ridge.
Ferrara believes that changing River Ave. to Rivera Ave. would be a great way for fans, "to honor a man whose inspiration and class had done so much for not only the Yankees and the community, but for the game of baseball."
Rivera is a Westchester resident who has lived in Purchase and New Rochelle over his 20 years as a Yankee during which he saved a record 652 games and helped the team win five World Series championships. Rivera retired in October and is now working in church ministry.
"I did meet him once on a cold February morning in 2011," Ferrara said when asked why he undertook the effort to rename the Bronx street. "He came into the White Plains Family YMCA to practice pitching. I introduced myself and got his autograph. He wouldn't remember. Ironically, I attended the Monday, September 19, 2011 game where he pitched his record 602nd save. Pure serendipity."
Ferrara wrote a petition and approached Bronx City Council member Maria del Carmen Arroyo to file the proper paperwork. Foley’s N.Y. Pub & Restaurant in Midtown and the New York Post were also heavily involved the process, holding a petition drive to encourage the Council to approve the bill.
"It was not so much difficult to start as it was maintaining the interest and momentum," Ferrara said. "My daughter, Elizabeth, did most of the procedural heavy lifting. Councilwoman Arroyo and NYC Council staff member Joann Otero deserve a lot of the credit".
Although the naming of a New York City street is traditionally reserved for the deceased, the City Council made an exception for Rivera and approved the act by a vote of 47-0 on December 10, declaring that one block of River Ave. will no will be named Rivera Street sometime in the next three or four months.
“It’s an honor to have a street named after me,” Rivera told The Post last week. "I have a lot of great memories driving down that street. My family is extremely grateful for this."