NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio has already said the Yale University residential college where his son lives should be renamed, and on Tuesday, he said he would be willing to listen to “concerns” about the names of New York City locations.
On Monday, the mayor said Calhoun College at Yale, which his son, Dante, attends, “absolutely” should be renamed.
John C. Calhoun – the 19th century South Carolina politician who served as vice president, secretary of state, secretary of war, and U.S. senator and representative – was a segregationist and white supremacist, and an ardent supporter of slavery.
Calls have mounted to have Calhoun’s name removed from the residential college, which was established in 1933. Calhoun graduated from Yale in 1804.
As WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported, de Blasio said his son, who is biracial, has been involved in some of the protests over race relations on campus.
“He has certainly been involved in the discussion on the campus,” de Blasio said. “He’s active in the black student union, and he’s been to some of the protests; I know that for sure.”
The mayor added that Dante de Blasio feels that, “as a young man of African descent, it doesn’t feel particularly appropriate to live in a place named after the chief segregationist leader of the South in that period of time.”
But as CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, questions have also arisen about changing things in New York City, which has many, many places named for slave owners. They include the George Washington Bridge, Washington Heights, Madison Square Garden, Madison Avenue, Astor Place, Delancey Street, and Chambers Street – among others.
The answer, it seems, is that the mayor will think about it.
“The mayor is not checking a list of sites to determine which should be renamed and which shouldn’t,” said press secretary Karen Hinton. “If someone has a concern about a specific name, they should absolutely share those concerns.”
And with City Hall awash in totems to slave owners – a statue of George Washington in the lobby and Thomas Jefferson in the Council chambers, CBS2’s Kramer asked Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito where she stands on re-christening places such as Washington Heights and Astoria, Queens.
“I think it’s a debate we should definitely have in this city,” Mark-Viverito said.
“I wouldn’t say that you necessarily change the George Washington Bridge, but what you do, you name something in the city that is equally as important; that has done a lot of help for America,” said Bronx Councilman Andy King (D-12th).
“I think it’s up to the constituents,” said Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera (D-14th).
New Yorkers on the city’s streets had mixed reactions to the idea.
“I don’t know – I have no opinion,” one said.
“No, it’s part of our history,” said Barbara Feldman of the Upper West Side. “And we’ve come, hopefully, a long way.”
“It’s a great idea, actually, because it had like a tragic past, and it could be something better,” said Brian Nuesi of Elmhurst, Queens.
But another man said, “The past is the past – we should be focusing on the present and future.”
CBS2’s Kramer asked Hinton if the mayor is asking New Yorkers to tell him which places should have their names changed. She said people can tell the mayor, call 311, or call the media.