MALVERNE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It started as a school project and has since become a mission. Students at Malvene High School are lobbying to change a street name that honors a village founder who was also a Ku Klux Klan leader.
What’s in a name? Students say there’s hatred in this one. Paul Lindner, a bank founder of what would become Malverne, also led Nassau County‘s chapter of the Klan in the 1920s.READ MORE: Former KKK Leader David Duke Announces Run For US Senate
“We found out he was involved in countless acts of intimidation and violence. He burned crosses on the lawns of people who intended to found Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church,” high school senior Olivia Young told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff on Tuesday.
In research papers and documentaries, students weighed changing the street name, said they discovered Lindner’s unabashed role in the KKK, burning crosses, recruiting, and leading Klan marches.
“We tried to keep an open mind and kind of look at the pros and cons of what it means to rename a street. At the end of the day, it was a street named by a man that represents a lot of evil things,” junior Sabrina Ramharakh said.
Students also learned his name on a street with 10 homes and an elementary school was not bestowed as an honor.
“His name was on it because when maps were drawn up, he owned the land. It’s not like they were trying to celebrate this person. It had just always been named after him. Within years, he lost his business,” said Jason Mach, the school district’s supervisor of humanities.
They took the case to Village Hall and a school forum.
“His actions as leader of the Nassau County Ku Klux Klan are so repugnant and incorrigible to his legacy as to justify a renaming of Lindner Place,” senior Geoffrey Enwere said.
“They have done all the work that was necessary to convince the adults in our community of what’s right,” superintendent Dr. Lorna Lewis added.
And have offered to help fundraise to defray any costs.READ MORE: Police: KKK Fliers Left On Cars At Hospital In Patchogue, Nearby Apartment Complex
“To change the deed, what it would cost to change the deed, and it’s close to nothing,” freshman Olivia Brown said.
But opposition has been loud on social media. In one post, someone said, “History is not yours to erase. Stop with the woke culture.”
The Bellamys live on Lindner Place.
“Because we were made aware he was a high-ranking member of the KKK, now it bothers me,” Jamie Bellamy said.
“It doesn’t reflect the positivity of the neighborhood. I’m more than happy to do the legwork and whatever fees it takes to change the name of this thing,” Michael Bellamy added.
Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett praised the students, but said he has yet to see detailed historic facts to make a thought-out decision.
“I’d love to know who he was as a person, what he did, good, bad or indifferent, and then let’s make an action on it, but I don’t want to jump just because you have a herd mentality telling you one thing. Let’s see who the guy really was,” Corbett said.
Next, the students will go before their school board to request a formal proposal be submitted to Village Hall.
Some have suggested the street be renamed Cherry Lane, to honor Elizabeth Cherry, one of the first Black students to attend the school on Lindner Place. She later taught there, one of New York’s first schools ordered to desegregate.MORE NEWS: KKK Fliers Found On Cars In Hampton Bays
Students aren’t the only ones gathering research for a name change. Members of the community, including the NAACP, are also petitioning.