Back in August, we told you about LeRoy McCarthy, the man spearheading a campaign to have Fulton Street between St. James Place and Cambridge Place–the block where Biggie Smalls grew up–renamed in honor of the Brooklyn native.
On Tuesday, McCarthy made his case to Brooklyn’s Community Board 2. His presentation included 1,000 handwritten signatures and more than 3,000 electronic ones, as well as letters from nearby businesses, two churches, and a mosque, all in support of renaming the street Christopher Wallace Way.
Community Board 2, though, was not overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the idea.
Board members expressed several misgivings about bestowing the honor on Notorious B.I.G. They were concerned about his misogynistic lyrics and his past as a drug dealer, for starters. But even his weight and the manner in which he died were dissected during Tuesday’s discussion.
Robert Perris, district manager for Brooklyn’s Community Board 2, says there are real considerations to weigh. Board member Kenn Lowy, for instance, “specifically asked, ‘When is it okay to refer to women as bitches and hoes?’ I think that’s a very reasonable question to ask,” Perris says.
To questions about Biggie’s lyrics McCarthy responds, “Shakespeare had off-color language at his time, but he was an artist sharing a story in language that might not feel comfortable to [all] people in the community.”
And when board members voiced concerns that Biggie was not a good role model–that he died a violent death and was overweight while alive, McCarthy says he answered, “John F. Kennedy died a violent death, and so did Martin Luther King. You can’t hold how somebody died against him. The way somebody looked, you can’t hold that against them either–President Taft was very fat.”
What the board should find compelling, McCarthy says, are the possibilities the street renaming could create for the neighborhood. “They might not recognize it, but Christopher Wallace Way, and St. James Place, where he grew up, is a tourist attraction. This is an opportunity for the city in terms of tourism.”
Perris, for his part, is not totally convinced. He says, “Some of these things Mr. McCarthy explains sort of by creative license. We’ll have to see whether that’s something that, if this moves forward, the board finds persuasive or not.”
The issue was tabled at Tuesday’s meeting; the board told McCarthy he needs a letter from the elected official representing District 35 (where the block is located) expressing support for the project. Public Advocate-elect Tish James represents the 35th district now, but Laurie Cumbo won the Democratic nomination for the seat in September. (There is no Republican candidate running against her.) Neither has taken a public position on Christopher Wallace Way.
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