2010-04-23 / Columnists

East End Matters...

Honor Hernandez With Street Renaming
Commentary By Miriam Rosenberg

In July 2008 a young honor-roll student and athlete, who had recently graduated Far Rockaway High School and was getting ready to go to SUNY Cortland, was gunned down on Beach 15 Street as he was walking home from his summer job. One year later, in June 2009, Community Board 14 unanimously voted to rename Mott Avenue and Gateway Boulevard in Far Rockaway to Patrick Hernandez- Hayes Boulevard.

Following the death of Hernandez a campaign to have a street named after him began as a grass-roots movement.

According to Pastor Barrielevia Evans a petition, with over 2,000 names on it, was presented to Councilman James Sanders Jr.; and at the June 2009 CB 14 meeting, Jeff Cohen, the chair of the board’s Commemorative Committee, said they had received dozens of letters from church officials and area residents asking for the street renaming. Despite the support, the honor for Hernandez has stalled in the City Council.

The Council’s parks committee decides if a request for a street renaming meets its criteria and then lets it on the Council floor for a vote. But according to a local community leader, who knows about the situation, the Council has said that the Hernandez bio that was submitted didn’t reflect the required standards and the young man didn’t do enough community work.

According to the bio for Hernandez, provided by Evans, the young man “volunteer[ed] at the daycare center and the doctor’s office. Patrick had become a young pillar in the community of the Rockaways at 14. He was held as an outstanding varsity and junior varsity football player. Always [aided] his teammates by tutoring them. It wasn’t until a young neighbor of Patrick Hernandez Hayes … would grip his heart and change the course of his life in the person of little Isaiah McFadden, who had a speech impediment [and was] unwilling to speak freely for fear he’d be laughed at. Patrick encouraged and coached him to speak, and for five years Patrick tutored Isaiah instilling in him a sense of pride, and the knowledge to overcome his fear to speak freely. It was his devotion to community, family, and friends that he never lost focus.”

The decision is now with the Speaker’s Leadership Team. Councilman Sanders will have an opportunity to make the case to those on the team for the Hernandez street renaming. In the end, the team can choose to change course and follow the recommendation of CB 14 and honor Hernandez or reject the wishes of the community.

By comparison the same community leader who told The Wave that the Hernandez request was stalled in the Council said that Sean Bell did less in terms of community service, yet earlier this year the Council approved a street renaming in honor of Bell. It was also suggested that renaming a street for Bell was the politically right thing to do by the councilmembers. Whatever the reason one thing is for sure; the death of Bell was a much higher profile case than Hernandez – something that may have provided more advocates for the Bell street renaming.

Residents can help by contacting Speaker Christine Quinn’s office. On the web go to http://council.nyc.gov/- d3/html/members/

home.shtml, click contact Speaker Quinn and you can send an email in support of the measure. Her legislative office is located at 250 Broadway, Suite 1856, New York, New York 10007. Her legislative phone number is 212-788- 7210 and fax is 212-788-7207. Through letters, petitions or both, Rockaway residents can change the minds of those in City Hall.

Some might ask what was really so special about Patrick Hernandez? If they still need to ask, send them to young Isaiah. Because, thanks to Hernandez, he can tell you in his own words why his tutor should be remembered on the corner of Mott Avenue and Gateway Boulevard.

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