Schenectady group pushes for Martin Luther King Jr. Street

Ceremony being planned for January, as petitions are sought
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the steps of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1956.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the steps of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1956.

SCHENECTADY — Community leaders are hoping to name a street in Schenectady after Martin Luther King Jr., despite some qualms over a new city ordinance.

The Schenectady City Council passed a resolution Monday night that authorizes the ceremonial naming of a portion of Albany Street as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way. However, a few community members have expressed disappointment in a recently passed city ordinance that requires organizers to petition for the change and that limits the naming to a two-block length of street.

“Limiting it to two blocks is not his legacy or dream. It goes beyond a two-block limitation; it goes throughout the world,” said Angelicia Morris, executive director of the Schenectady County Human Rights Commission. The commission wants to name the stretch from Schenectady Street to Craig Street after King as part of a January celebration.

Legislation passed in November requires community members seeking to ceremonially name a street to obtain 500 signatures on a petition, in addition to the two-block limit.

Morris and Martin Luther King Jr. Coalition Chairman Randy McGough sought an exemption to the petition requirement earlier this month, citing King’s legacy and the Human Rights Commission’s status as a county entity. Council members supported the plan to honor King and offered to help collect signatures but said they couldn’t make an exception.

During Monday night’s meeting, a few community members spoke and again asked the council to consider providing an exemption.

“(King) is an international figure, one who is well respected, and two blocks doesn’t capture what we’re trying to do with this,” said Rev. Horace Sanders Jr. “We’re attempting to gather signatures and will do so, but it would be a great gesture to allow the street naming to be longer.”

Rev. Phil Grigsby, executive director of the Schenectady Inter City Ministry, noted that organizers are hoping to rename a street in the heart of Hamilton Hill, where multiple groups that carry out King’s message are located. 

Ideally, Morris said, the organization would have liked to rename the stretch of Albany Street from Georgetta Dix Plaza up to Craig Street. That corridor features tributes to multiple civil rights leaders, including a portion of Hulett Street dubbed “Harriet Tubman Way,” and the Joseph Allen Apartments, an Albany Street development named after a former city councilman and community activist.

The ceremonial naming would coincide with the 30th anniversary of the formation of Schenectady’s Martin Luther King Jr. Coalition, which is part of the Human Rights Coalition, Morris said. The commission is planning a weekend celebration in January to mark the occasion, with a dedication ceremony on Jan. 13.

There’s been a strong response to the push for signatures, Morris said. 

“The community is now working and wants to assist us in gathering these petitions,” Morris said.

The street dedication would be followed two days later by a 30th anniversary celebration for the coalition. The event is scheduled to take place at Proctors and would feature keynote speaker Steve Perry, an author and educator who founded a magnet school for mostly low-income residents in Hartford, Connecticut.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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