October 19, 2006

State Street Renaming Decision Postponed

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The future of State Street’s name remains uncertain as the Board of Public Works postponed the vote on changing the name to Martin Luther King Jr. Street to the next meeting on Nov.1. This decision followed an hour-long discussion yesterday in City Hall of the petition brought to the board nearly a year ago.

Raymond Schlather, a member of the board, brought up three resolutions: grant the proposal, have a dual name and deny the proposal. He insisted that the resolution not to rename the street include a provision requesting the mayor and Common Council form an ad hoc committee immediately to address the issue which would make a recommendation to Council on Jan. 15 and set aside $20,000 funding for whatever is recommended.

Mayor Carolyn Peterson said that the dual proposal might be a problem since she did not know if the 911 Dispatch Center could handle a dual name. Also, the supporters changing the street’s name do not support a dual name.

According to Pete Meyers, organizer with the Tompkins County Worker’s Center, there was some confusion about the name change.

“We do not want dual designation like in New York City with 6th Avenue and Avenue of the Americas. It would be Martin Luther King Jr. Street, but Historic State Street would also be on the signs,” Meyers said.

The board members agreed that this issue has promoted dialogue and debate in the community, which is beneficial.

“There has been a tremendous amount of goodwill directed toward honoring MLK. I certainly want to see that goodwill directed toward doing something,” said Wade Wykstra, member of the board.

Peterson also suggested requesting a committee to be formed to find a way “to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and our African American community.”

Board member Claudia Jenkins shared that she was still undecided and that “the only people who really use State Street are local Ithacans, people from out of town are looking for Route 13, 96 or 79 E.”

She shared a proposal to change the name of the Commons to King’s Commons or Martin Luther King Commons.

“We were hoping for a vote,” Meyers said.