Wednesday, June 26, 2019

“Seaver Way” Tactics: City Council Throws Knuckleball

The City Council is up to its old tricks again – giving just one day or less notice that it will hold a public hearing on Wednesday morning (June 26, 2019) regarding the New York Mets’ proposal to rename a seven-block stretch of 126th Street “Seaver Way,” for former Mets player Tom Seaver.

This is a textbook example of the Council discouraging and preventing public testimony at a hearing, by withholding adequate advance notice.

Weeks ago, the Mets announced that they would hold a street renaming ceremony on June 27, 2019 – which they would be hard-pressed to do, without first obtaining City Council approval of the name change. Thus it stands to reason that powers-that-be have known that there would be a City Council hearing on the proposal prior to June 27, but they chose to publish no information about it until just one day before.

Which Council members are the sponsors of the Mets street renaming legislation?

Francisco Moya
District 21
Peter Koo
District 20

Paul Vallone
District 19
Francisco Moya, Peter Koo and Paul Vallone.

Their bill – which reveals the absolute bare minimum about the proposal – would simply rename 126th Street “Seaver Way” and amend the City map accordingly. The bill does not even identify who “Seaver” is, or provide any rationale or justification for changing the existing street name.

And bizarrely, although the legislation specifically concerns a street that is under control of the New York City Department of Transportation, the Council did not refer the bill to its Committee on Transportation (which “has jurisdiction over … transportation agencies and facilities, including the Department of Transportation”), but instead referred the bill to the Committee on Parks and Recreation (which “has jurisdiction over New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation”).

The Council’s Committee on Parks and Recreation lacks jurisdiction over 126th Street, and is not the proper committee to evaluate this proposed street name change. It is, however, conveniently chaired by one of the bill’s sponsors: Peter Koo.

Why is the City Council resorting to such shameful tactics to circumvent proper review and suppress public testimony about the 126th Street / Seaver Way renaming?

Perhaps Council members know that a Seaver street renaming is redundant and unnecessary, given that the Mets are also working on plans for a Tom Seaver statue at Citi Field – just as other teams throughout the country have traditionally erected statues to honor their special retired players. It may be unprecedented for a team to honor a player with both a larger-than-life statue, plus a renamed public street fronting its stadium. In the case of Seaver, it must be asked: Why the redundancy? Isn’t a Tom Seaver statue enough, as other ballplayer statues are elsewhere?

Perhaps Council members know that the street whose name would be changed – 126th Street – is sandwiched right in between two of the City’s most ethnic neighborhoods: Flushing (with its dominant Asian population) and Corona (with its Latino majority). A public hearing held with good advance notice might draw contemporary residents of Flushing and Corona, who may prefer honoring individuals other than Seaver, a caucasian sports figure whose Queens career ended 36 years ago.

Whatever their reasons, by their handling of the proposed 126th Street / Seaver Way renaming, City Council powers-that-be have revealed their disdain for participation by the very public that they are sworn to represent.

The name of a taxpayer-owned public street is at issue. Officials should have facilitated public participation in this matter, not shamefully suppressed it.