Update: Sonny Carson Avenue
May 30th, 2007
The dispute over whether to rename a portion of a Brooklyn street for black activist Sonny Carson sharply split the City Council today. With support from the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, Councilmember Albert Vann introduced an amendment to add Sonny Carson Avenue back to the street renaming package bill. The move failed.
Carson Avenue, along with the rest of the street name proposals had been introduced in April and removed from the street renaming bill after a contentious vote in the parks committee. Councilmembers, the media and the public have debated the merits of honoring Carson and the process by which streets are renamed.
At today’s meeting, Vann urged his colleagues to vote their conscience and emphasized the importance of honoring the wishes of local communities. Earlier, Vann connected the issue to self-determination and freedom, “If you tell us who we cannot honor today, you’ll tell us who we cannot worship tomorrow.”
On Memorial Day, Councilmember Charles Barron led an effort to rename a Brooklyn park after Sonny Carson by putting up new signs. Today, Barron spoke at length on the issue, singling out Letitia James for abstaining from voting on Sonny Carson Avenue while on the Parks Committee and criticizing Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s efforts to block the renaming. Quinn responded by emphasizing that those who the city honors with street names must reflect the city’s core values and principles and unite, not divide, us. Before the meeting, Barron, who has referenced the numerous streets named after slaveholders and the council’s honoring of entertainer Al Jolson who dressed in blackface, spoke about the controversial Irish New Yorkers and members of the Irish Republican Army who had been honored by the city in the past and supported by the local African American community.
Spectators in the crowded City Hall chambers chanted “Whose streets? Our streets. Whose streets? Sonny’s streets?” and “self-determination,” but the council voted against adding Sonny Carson Avenue with 15 in favor of the amendment, 25 against and 6 abstaining. Some councilmembers voiced concerns about the process as they voted no, while others cited allegedly hateful comments by Carson as they emphatically voted no.By Sydney Beveridge on May 30, 2007, 5:31 pm
In category: Civil Rights, Electoral Politics, Gotham City | 4 Comments »