Rumors Persist that Puerto Rican Ave. Will Lose Name
Although there isn’t an official proposal in the Department of Transportation (DOT) to eliminate the name of the legendary Ave. of Puerto Rico in East Williamsburg, persistent rumors that there’s such a plan in the works have residents worried.
According to locals, the talk that the name Ave. of Puerto Rico would be excluded from the street signs along Graham Ave. became louder at the beginning of this year. Initially, the proposal was believed to have originated among groups of non-Latino residents who argue that the neighborhood’s population has changed over the past decade and that the avenue’s name would exclude other communities.
Another version points to large commercial and residential developers that would want to make the area more attractive to new residents.
According to an analysis of data from the 2010 Census by CUNY’s Center for Urban Research, the Latino population of Williamsburg fell by almost 25% from 2000 to 2010.
Activists emphasized that since the 1990s, artists, professionals, and students have moved to the neighborhood, mainly for its proximity to Manhattan and the relatively affordable rent.
“We’re facing a problem that other Latino neighborhoods are also dealing with. Latino families used to be the largest community, but they’ve been displaced,” said a spokesperson from St. Nicks Alliance, an organization that advocates for affordable housing.
The DOT said that no process or official proposal is under way to change the avenue’s street signs.
Luis Garden, president of El Puente, said the rumors started to circulate six months ago, and despite an investigation, no one has been able to pinpoint who is behind them.
“It isn’t unusual considering the real-estate industry hasn’t reaped profits from the Latino population,” said Garden. “Big companies in Los Sures [South Brooklyn] call the neighborhood Greenpoint or North Brooklyn and that way they omit our presence, exclude us.”
María Cardona, who has lived in the neighborhood for 16 years, said, “The population changed, but to remove the street signs bearing the name would be like burying a part of our history.”
Other Latinos shared the concern of Puerto Rican residents and agreed that the avenue’s name should not change.
Luis Pérez, a 32-year-old restaurant employee from Mexico, said the name empowers the Latino community and that “keeping it is a way of recognizing our presence.”
Earl Creston, a local artist, stressed that calling the thoroughfare Ave. of Puerto Rico doesn’t make him uncomfortable.
“I don’t feel excluded, but I think people should find a way to erase the image that we are invaders,” said Creston.