Under intense criticism from Julio Tavarez, the 5th Ward councilman, Kenneth McDaniel, the city council vice-president, called for a moratorium on additionally naming streets during Tuesday’s city council workshop.
Tavarez called the street naming criteria agreed upon by majority of the city council members “anti-immigrant,” citing an old animosity that emerged in the past few years between the city’s Black and Dominican communities over additionally naming Park Avenue to Duarte Drive, after Juan Pablo Duarte, one of the founding fathers of the Dominican Republic. Duarte is the equivalent of George Washington in the Caribbean island nation.
“I find it very repressive to my community,” said Tavarez, pointing to the inability of the council to grant few basic things to the Dominican community to make them appreciate their history and heritage.
The street naming discussion was brought to the forefront in middle of 2013, when the council attempted to additionally name a street after a Bangladeshi immigrant. That naming came to naught when a Mosque on Van Houten Street vehemently came out against the additional naming, even going as far as filing a federal lawsuit against the city. During an entire month large crowds from that community attended council meetings to make their side’s view known. It was during these meetings council members resolved to strengthen the street naming criteria resolution to ensure such thing does not happen in the future.
McDaniel, councilman at-large, during those overfilled council chamber meetings, stated he would revisit that resolution to bolster it. That strengthened resolution was presented Tuesday with additional measures, and that sparked a volley between Tavarez and other council members. Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, was lightly laughing, when the 5th Ward councilman was delivering his remark, and he swiftly attacked her , saying she shouldn’t be laughing; and her doing so was deeply “disrespectful.” Cotton apologized and responded, “I’m not laughing at your issues.”
Anthony Davis, the 1st Ward councilman, included himself in the discussion when he told Tavarez, that some years ago, two factions of Dominicans came before the council, one wanting a street named after Duarte while the other wanted a park. And Davis asserted that they got a park. “Did the park fill our quota?” roared Tavarez back to Davis.
Tavarez said the resolution which claims to be non-discriminate when it comes to additionally naming the street has been nothing but discriminating against the Dominicans. He read from the third paragraph of the newly revamped resolution, citing that the honoree’s national origin ought not to matter, he read: “regardless of honoree’s race, creed, color, or national origin,” slowing down and focusing on national origin.
Tavarez asserted that the criteria was put in place to prevent his community from getting Park Avenue additionally named. McDaniel, who was presiding over as the president of the council after Andre Sayegh, the 6th Ward councilman, left the chamber, said no single community is barred from getting a street name. “No one is barred,” said McDaniel. “Let’s not put it out there [that] an entire community is barred.”
McDaniel vehemently protested that a whole community was barred from getting street named after its heroes. He said, Tavarez should modify the new revamped resolution, and bring it back to the council for discussion; in the meantime there would be a pause in street naming. “Maybe we should put a moratorium on Street naming,” said McDaniel.