Volume 17, Number 39 | February 17-23, 2005

C.B. 1 votes to add Frederick Douglass name to B.P.C. block

A section of Chambers St., from West St. to River Terrace,is likely to be co-named “Frederick Douglass Landing,” after a proposal was passed at the Community Board 1 on Tuesday.

“This co-naming would both respect the contribution of Mr. Douglass toward the abolition of slavery in America and remind us of the linkage of this area to that part of our history,” the C.B. 1 resolution said.

There were five members of the Battery Park City committee, which was where the proposal originated, in favor of the proposal and four who were opposed, but the proposal passed unanimously at the board meeting.

“We surmounted a major hurdle,” said Jacob Morris, director of the Society for Equitable Excellence, a Manhattan-based nonprofit organization. Morris, who proposed the co-naming to the B.P.C. committee and C.B. 1, added that “it was wonderful to see a forest of hands” go up at the board meeting, where some members who had initially opposed the co-naming eventually changed their votes.

The proposal now moves to the City Council where it is not expected to receive much opposition.

“This honors New York City, not just Frederick Douglass,” Morris said.

When Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery in 1838, he landed in New York City at the Chambers St. dock on the Hudson River, Morris’ petition explains. Now under landfill, the dock was a major passage point on the Underground Railroad route that helped slaves escape to freedom. More than 160 years later, Chambers St. was been extended into Battery Park City where that dock once existed, which is why Morris and other supporters of the proposal requested that the street extension be renamed Frederick Douglass Landing.

Members who opposed the co-naming at the B.P.C. committee meeting at the beginning of the month did so for various reasons.

“There’s already a street in Manhattan named Frederick Douglass Boulevard,” said board member Barry Skolnick. “It’s unusual to have another street with the same name.”

Another board member suggested that an educational plaque or marker might be more suitable.

“How will co-naming one street indicate anything that Frederick Douglass has done?” said board member Pearl Scher. “Would it be more suitable to put it [a plaque] in the high school library with background? It will only be of significance if it’s in the schools, which it already is.”

— Divya Watal


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