BY JOE MARVILLI
During its October meeting, Community Board 7 voted to approve a street co-naming after a proponent of LGBT rights.
The board took on an A.K.A. rider to co-name 171st Street between 33rd and 35th Avenues as Manford Family PFLAG Way. The co-naming is meant to honor Jeanne Manford, a Flushing teacher who co-founded the support group, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
After some discussion, the co-naming was approved by a vote of 30 to one.
The proposal was brought forward by Joseph Femenia, the chairperson of the board’s transportation committee, and was spearheaded by Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights).
Manford started PFLAG in 1972 after an incident involving her son, Morty, a gay activist. In April of that year, Morty was beaten for distributing flyers inside the annual Inner Circle dinner, a political gathering in the City. In response, Jeanne wrote a letter protesting her son’s treatment to the editor at the New York Post, and she marched alongside her son in the Gay Pride Parade. From there, she formed PFLAG and her home became a place where gay youth could turn to if they were rejected by their own families.
There are now PFLAG chapters in multiple cities and countries around the world.
“Jeanne Manford was for us like Rosa Parks is to the Black Civil Rights Movement,” Dromm said. “Jeanne and I had a very close relationship. Jeanne actually helped my own mother accept me as an openly gay person.”
Dromm took on this cause, even though the street is outside of his district, due to Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone)’s legal troubles. Dromm said that he talked with Halloran about the co-naming and the embattled councilman gave his approval for Dromm to go ahead with it.
“Mrs. Manford did something very historic. Flushing has always been the place of religious freedom and different cultures and ethnicities come together and live peacefully in our community,” Matthew Silverstein, the Democratic State Committeeman for the 26th Assembly District, said. “She did something that didn’t exist before.”
Once the proposal was on the floor, the board members discussed whether the co-naming for Manford would be appropriate. While most of the board was in favor, it was not unanimous.
“When I drive around the Whitestone area, the College Point area, most of the signs that I see in the streets are for armed services, police and fire that died in the line of duty in either 9/11 or other heroic acts,” Nicholas Corrado said.
“An advocate for the gay community, I applaud her. But I just cannot put it at the same level as a person who gives their life up for a stranger, like our military, police and firefighters.”
Corrado ultimately voted against the measure.
Several board members disagreed with Corrado, saying that streets have been co-named for civic leaders and organizations before and the board should honor the impact Manford had.
“This is a matter of civil rights,” Warren Schreiber said. “I think it’s appropriate at this time that we start honoring this family and we open our eyes and our arms to people from all different communities.”
“I live down the block from that home. I look forward to bringing my three children up that block,” Paul Vallone, a board member and the Democratic candidate for Council District 19, added.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.