The New York City Council recently approved a proposal to rename two streets in the Richmond Hill, Queens area, giving them Indian names to represent the large community of Punjabis and Sikhs living there. It was the result of a campaign by some Indian-Americans who have been meeting primarily with Councilwoman Adrienne Adams.
The approved proposal brought before the council by Councilwoman Adams, will result in naming the strip of road on 101st Avenue between 111th Street and 123rd Street as Punjab Avenue, and renaming the piece on 97th Ave. betwen Lefferts Blvd. and 117th St, as Gurdwara Street.
The campaign for renaming the streets was led by Harpreet Singh Toor and Kulwinder Kaur, residents of Richmond Hill, Toor told Desi Talk. He is the founder and President of South Asians for Global Empowerment, an organization he established a year and a half ago, he said, with the goal not only of empowering the communities, but also with the specific goal of setting up a charter school in the area.
“Charter schools give community organizations more control over the educational content to be taught, such as extra classes for our culture and things like that,” Singh said.
His first meeting with Councilwoman Adams where he brought up the proposal to rename the streets, took place a year ago, and he is overjoyed with the result. “Our goal is to empower the South Asian community,” Singh said.
Adams, a lifelong resident of Southeast Queens, was elected in November 2017 from Council District 28, which covers Queens neighborhoods of Jamaica, Rochdale Village, Richmond Hill, and South Ozone Park. She has worked on numerous community projects in her District both before and after being elected.
According to the New York City Council web page, on Dec. 19, 2019, the resolution “Introduction 1825-2019” entitled “Naming of 55 thoroughfares and public places” was passed by the City Council, after being passed by the Committee on Parks and Recreation the day before. This bill would co-name 55 thoroughfares and public places, based on requests of Council Members whose district includes the location. Of these 55 co-names, 5 are either a relocation of a previously enacted co-naming or a revision to the street sign installed with respect to a previously enacted co-naming, the City Council website says.
New York Daily News reported the passage of the name-change proposal Dec. 18, 2019, quoting a statement from Councilwoman Adams saying, “I am proud of the multicultural mosaic of my District and our City and believe that it should be celebrated.”
Adams went on to say, “It is important that diverse communities see themselves and their varying cultures represented in the historical landscape. Co-naming Gurdwara Street and Punjab Avenue is a long overdue recognition for the contributions of the Sikh and Punjabi communities both locally and throughout the City.”
Annetta Seecharran, executive director of Chhaya CDC, is quoted saying in qns.com that “The Punjabi and Sikh communities have been a part of Richmond Hill, and our city for over half a century.” Seecharran also added, “From construction sites and yellow cabs, to hospitals and our government, Punjabis and Sikhs help run this city, and are part of its fabric. We will continue to work with the council member to ensure that all of our communities are uplifted and empowered.”