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.