Quinn Accused of Causing Street Names Traffic Jam
April 16, 2008

A public historian who is attempting to have streets in Harlem and Brooklyn co-named after famous blacks is accusing the speaker of the City Council, Christine Quinn, of blocking the effort, saying she is stonewalling him and others to avoid a repeat of the flap that hit City Hall last year over a proposal to rename a city street after a radical black activist.

The proposal to co-name a street after Carson, who had declared himself to be “anti-white,” led to a contentious vote in the council that split members largely along racial lines. Afterward, with Carson’s name failing to win approval, Ms. Quinn created a special task force to come up with a new way to deal with the proposed street names.

The historian, Jacob Morris, said there is no reason why the names he is fighting for, which have won support from local community boards, should be forced to sit in limbo. The proposed street names he is trying to shepherd through City Hall would recognize the first black Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall, a writer and civil rights activist, W.E.B. Du Bois, a jazz musician, Count Basie, and a singer, Billie Holiday, among others.

“Just because you don’t like Sonny Carson, why block everyone else?” Mr. Morris said yesterday. “Why stop everything just because of that? I know we all understand the motivation. She just doesn’t want to be bothered.”

Mr. Morris, who said he is responsible for the co-naming of Frederick Douglass Landing on Chambers Street and Abolitionist Place on Duffield Street in downtown Brooklyn, said street names play an important role in teaching New Yorkers about the history of their city.

“All of these are overdue,” he said, referring to the names he is trying to put before the council. “They should have been done 25 years ago, but at least we are doing them now.”

It’s unclear when the council will deliberate next on another set of street co-names. A spokesman for Ms. Quinn, Anthony Hogrebe, wrote in an e-mail message that the council is in the midst of developing a new street renaming process.

“After we finish this process we will move quickly to address pending requests for co-naming,” he wrote.

A council member on the special committee that is reviewing the street co-naming process, Gale Brewer, said she did not know when a final decision would be made on the new rules. It could take several months or longer because the council’s Committee on Rules, Privileges, and Elections, which would have to approve any changes, may have its hands full in the coming months.

On Friday, Ms. Quinn proposed a series of changes to the council’s budget process. Council members said they expect those proposed changes to become the focus of the rules committee.å