The topic has simmered for some time, kicked around from one committee to another, popping up at one meeting, resurfacing sometime later elsewhere.
But it seems the majority of those attending Community Board 8’s law, rules and ethics committee meeting Nov. 29 opposed the idea of the board even taking a position on renaming a street after a business.
The general consensus seemed to be that christening a street after a local establishment — albeit a venerable one — would effectively be like advertising for the business, which didn’t seem to sit well with committee and board members, including rules chair Martin Wolpoff, committee member Dan Padernacht, or even board chair Rosemary Ginty. Hence, they decided, in a resolution, that the board won’t offer an opinion on whether or not a business — whether nonprofit or for profit — should have a street renamed in its honor.
“The biggest concern was that we would be promoting or advertising a particular business within the community district,” Padernacht said.
The full board is expected to vote on that at its next meeting, scheduled for Dec. 11.
“What the resolution does is that it tells any applicant that we’re not going to give an opinion, and that any applicant should go directly to the council member,” Padernacht said. While community boards can advise on street renamings, whether they actually happen depends on the city council, typically started by a councilman like Andrew Cohen.
This could, of course, have a bearing on Loeser’s Kosher Deli in Kingsbridge, where owner Fredy Loeser’s daughter Pamela Halpern has spearheaded a prolonged campaign to ceremonially rename part of West 231st Street after her father’s iconic haunt for those hankering after kosher knishes and corned beef piled high upon rye.
According to CB8’s standards for street name changes, the honoree must be dead, nominated by three or more organizations on a list required to be kept by the community board under the new city charter, and have demonstrably benefited the community. This could be by volunteering, or — if they were an artist — by inspiring a sense of local pride in their work. It could also stem from some heroic act of valor putting their life on the line.
Elected officials can be candidates, too.
Additionally, at least two years must have elapsed between the prospective honoree’s death and the board’s final vote. Furthermore, the location bearing their name must have a specific connection to their life or work, and the name change shouldn’t give rise to confusion, like if there were too many other similar names in the area.
But whether or not CB8 gives its blessing to businesses seeking to baptize a street in their honor wasn’t the only question the rules committee and their guests grappled with at the Nov. 29 meeting. They also tackled whether renaming a park — or part of a park, like a soccer field — after a person should follow the same guidelines as renaming a street.
The discussion bubbled up following CB8’s recent full board meeting, where members agreed to recommend parks and athletic fields be dubbed after illustrious residents, the same way streets can. That recommendation grew out of the board championing renaming a soccer field at Seton Park after Bruce Silverman, who played a pivotal role organizing a wildly popular youth soccer program there.
A Riverdale resident since 1995, Silverman died in 2015 following an eight-year battle with cancer. He was 52.
Park renamings would fall under guidelines similar to those governing renaming of streets, according to what the board approved at the Nov. 13 meeting.
Although Padernacht said he supported the park renaming in Silverman’s memory, he felt such a rule change should have gone through CB8’s rules committee first, to allow the public a chance to speak on it.
Yet, the board rejected his request at the regular meeting, with Charles Moerdler pushing for approval of the rule change sooner rather than later on the premise that failing to do so could hinder efforts to recommend renaming the hallowed field.
At the recent rules meeting, Padernacht re-stated his stance the public ought to have a fair chance to weigh in on the possibility of extending street renaming guidelines to parks and parts of parks. Wolpoff said they would — at the upcoming board meeting Dec. 11, during the gallery session, for instance. But Padernacht suggested that’s just not the same as bringing the issue to a committee where residents could truly engage with the topic — and with the committee itself.
“I did not believe that putting it on the full board gave the public an opportunity to engage a committee and make public comment and discussion on it,” Padernacht said.
“At the very minimum, the public should have that opportunity to comment.”
Padernacht also pointed out the park-and-field-renaming question wasn’t even on the agenda for the rules meeting, which referred only to streets. Wolpoff claimed it was, saying they’re basically the same issue. But Padernacht disagreed.
What’s still unclear, however — even after the rules meeting — is the fate of Loeser’s bid to baptize the street in its honor. Yet, if Wolpoff’s committee has their way, CB8 won’t be involved. That’s something even the CB8 chair agreed upon.
“I think it’s a mistake for the board,” Ginty said. “That is city space. That’s public space for a commercial advertisement. That’s what it is. An advertisement.”