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City Questions Whether Renamed Street Sign Could Be Offensive

Project to Return Roads to Historic Names Put on Hold, Halloran Says

A proposal to change seven Douglaston streets back to their original names has come to a halt after the city questioned whether one of the names could be considered racially insensitive, Councilman Dan Halloran, R-Whitestone, said.

The streets had been changed from their original names to numerical names in the 1920s to keep them in line with the city's grid. In the 1970s, a majority of the streets were returned to their original names.

But seven streets never had their names changed back. For years, community residents have called on the city to restore the historic names.

The process has once again been stalled after the City Planning Department asked Halloran whether he believed it was good idea to rename a section of 243rd Street between 44th Avenue and Depew Street as Orient Avenue.

"The city is concerned is about restoring Orient Avenue's name because they do not know if it would be considered offensive to the Asian population," he said. "The city raised a flag."

Halloran said all seven names would need to be changed at the same time and that Orient Avenue was the only one holding up the process.

"It has to all be done at once and correctly," he said.

The councilman said he has asked the Douglaston/Little Neck Historical Society, which has been leading the fight to get the streets renamed, to determine whether the section of 243rd Street should be changed back to Orient Avenue.

"The street is only a couple of blocks long," said Julia Schoeck, president of the historical society. "It was named Orient because that means 'east' and the street is in the eastern part of Douglaston. We are happy with that descriptive term. We feel that the whole argument against it does not have a lot of merit."

Some members of Community Board 11 had been concerned whether renaming a section of 235th Street between the north and south sides of the Douglaston Parkway along the Long Island Rail Road as Main Avenue would cause confusion for emergency responders.

But the city's Fire Department and the 111th Precinct told CB 11 that they were not opposed to the street-renaming plan.

Former Councilman Tony Avella had originally proposed the have the streets' original names restored. Last fall, both CB 11 and the City Council approved the proposal.

Under the plan, Orient Avenue and Main Avenue would get new signs. In addition, a portion of 240th Street between 43rd Avenue and Depew Avenue will be renamed as Prospect Avenue, while a section of 242nd Street between 43rd and 44th avenues will be switched to Hamilton Avenue.

Part of 44th Avenue between Douglaston Parkway and 244th Street will be changed to Church Street and 43rd Avenue between the intersection of Douglaston Parkway as well as 240th and 243rd streets will be renamed as Pine Street.

Also, 42nd Avenue between the LIRR's dead end and 243d Street will change to Poplar Street.

Last fall, the city restored the historic names of five streets in the neighborhood, including Hillside Avenue, Douglas Road, Little Neck Road, Cherry Street and Willow Street.

Seinfeld said most residents supported the proposal, but that some business owners had mixed feelings.

"I'm concerned about them changing the name of my business's street back to Main Avenue," said Ronald Hellman, a Douglaston attorney whose office is located on Douglaston Parkway near 235th Street and also owns the Outrageous Fortune theater company. "It could be confusing because Main Street is close by. We've been here for many years and have a known address. So, we'd have to change our information."

Hellman's office is located on Douglaston Parkway near 235th Street.

 

Pat Ade November 17, 2010 at 01:33 AM
I live on 244th Street off Douglaston Parkway (aka Winchester Estates) which splits into 242nd Street, and I would very much like to have the streets returned to the original names. I know 242nd Street was Edgehill Place. There is always confusion because the streets are separated by the golf course and are not in numerical order. I've written my state senator and Queen's Borough President's Office about this.
Nathan Duke (Editor) November 17, 2010 at 01:09 PM
Thanks for your comment on the story. I'd love to hear any more information you might have on this matter that did not make it into the story. What are some of the issues that have been created by the confusion involving the signs? I'd heard about mail not being delivered properly.
Amy Chang November 18, 2010 at 03:22 AM
I'm asian and I don't see anything offensive about naming a street Orient Ave. I live on the same street as the commenter above and I would also love to see the name of our street returned back to its original name. I've written to the DOT but unfortunately they denied my request. Our street does not connect to other streets, it doesn't even connect to Douglaston Parkway. You have to turn into 244th st to get to 242nd st so it's difficult for us to receive deliveries because the drivers cannot find our address.
Eileen Kelly December 28, 2010 at 02:17 PM
I live on Sandhill Road( AKA 39th Avenue) , which is not a city street. Most of the residents (there are only six homes) use 39th Avenue as their address there is no street sign for either street and even the Fire Department has said they will not find a 39th Avenue address in an emergency call, they will be looking on the South side of the tracks. We really need a sign. At the top of Sandhill Road there is a street sign that says "Bayshore" . I wonder where this street is?
Naomi Neiman January 01, 2011 at 04:09 PM
Orient is merely a directional word. It is not a derogatory word for people of Asian ancestry. Sounds like the folks in the "city" require a better understanding of the dictionary and the people in our neighborhood. In fairness though, the sensitivity is appreciated, but as the origin of the street name has been explained, the project should be allowed to proceed. Douglaston can pride itself in the quality and diversity of its residents. The folks in the Historical Society love our neighborhood and do not want to hurt or exclude anyone.
Stuart Hersh January 13, 2011 at 11:38 PM
I find it ludicrous to think that anyone of any ethnicity might find "Orient Avenue" offensive. Would anyone raise the same question about Orient Point at the EAST END (the meaning of the word, "orient") of Long Island? I'd also like to point out that the famous Asian Educator and Author Betty Lee Sung lived on that street at a time when it still had its original and historically authentic name, ORIENT AVENUE. Stuart Hersh, Trustee Douglaston/Little Neck Historical Society
Michael Gannon January 14, 2011 at 11:37 PM
Eileen, Your part of the road shows as Railroad Avenue on old maps. The portion from Douglas Road to The DMA garage shows as Sandhill Road. Mike Gannon, Trustee / Researcher - Douglaston Little Neck Historical Society
Maoist June 15, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Don't worry, when the whole place get bought up by people that 'Orient' eastward, they will rename then town to Little Red China and along with the streets too.

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