Street Naming Becomes Hot Potato
What began as a simple request to name a local street in memory of a firefighter who died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 has become a hot potato, juggled by the family of the slain firefighter, Com munity Board 14, the Rockaway Beach Civic Association and City Councilman Joe Addabbo.
In any case, where the potato falls is anybody’s guess.
Gail Allen, the mother of Richard Allen, who died at the World Trade Center, went before Community Board 14, buoyed by a number of supporters, asking that Beach 91 Street and the boardwalk be named in memory of her son.
There have been a number of street renamings over the past two years, many for firefighters, but others in memory of local activists and saloon owners as well.
Allen’s mother believed that she was simply following protocol and that her request would proceed quickly.
That protocol calls for the community board to formally vote on the renaming upon recommendation of the civic association in the community involved – in this case, the Rockaway Beach Civic Association. After the recommendation is made and the CB vote is taken, the local City Council representative takes the vote to the City Council for a final vote.
In this case, however, the local civic association had already voted early this month to rename Beach 91 Street, soon to be declared an official "surfing street" in the memory of Hawaiian surfer and Olympic hero Duke Kahanamoku.
Delores Orr, President of the Rockaway Beach Civic Assoc., and chairperson for CB 14, offered several other choices to Allen – Beach 90 Street or Beach 101 Street (Allen’s family had owned a deli at that location). She also suggested a Belle Harbor street because Allen had lived in that community.
Allen’s mother told The Wave, however, that her son had been a lifeguard at Beach 91 Street and that, while in college, he made a surfing documentary at that beach.
She turned down the alternatives, insisting on Beach 91 Street instead.
One supporter of Allen’s application called The Wave to ask if Allen, who died protecting his city, was not more important than a man who may or may not have ever come to Rockaway.
The Rockaway Beach Civic Association, however, refused to give in.
"Beach 91 Street is the ‘Surfing Beach of Rockaway,’ and with the anticipated demapping of Duke Kahanamoku Way due to the development of Arverne, Rockaway Beach Civic had hoped Beach 91 Street at the Boardwalk would be renamed Duke Kahanamoku Way for all surfers," civic President Delores Orr wrote in an Email press release to The Wave. "At our March 2 meeting, Councilman Joseph Addabbo advised us that it is expected the City will be designating Beach 91 Street an official surfing beach later this year."
"The process now moves forward at the discretion of Council man Joseph Addabbo," the re lease concludes.
Addabbo, however, says that he wants to do what the community wants him to do.
"I need a letter from the Rockaway Beach Civics before I can move in the council," Addabbo told The Wave on Monday. "I want to do what the community wants me to do. I can’t get invol ved in the decision"
Addabbo did say, however, that one street can be named for two or more people.
"They can name it Duke Kahanamoku Way and Richard Allen Place," Addabbo says.
Community Board 14 says that it is waiting on the final decision of the Rockaway Beach Civic Association as well. The vote on naming the street for Kahan amoku was tabled at the last meeting.
"We tabled that decision at the request of the family," said Jon athon Gaska, the board’s district manager. "If the civics agree, then we’ll pull it from the agenda. I hope that the family and the civic association can work it out."
Who has the final decision?
Addabbo said that he spoke with the council’s legal staff, who told him that a letter from the civic association is necessary. The community board agrees with that assessment.
The Rockaway Beach Civic Asso c iation, however, says that their decision on naming the street for Kahanamoku stands and that the ball is now in Addabbo’s court.