The City Council approved nearly 200 street co-namings, including 23 in Brooklyn, at its stated meeting on Wednesday — and the vote was extra sweet for two Brooklyn pols who will get to see the honor bestowed upon their parents
In Flatbush, the intersection of East 45th Street and Farragut Road will be co-named for Marie Andrée Bichotte, the mother of State Assemblymember and Brooklyn Democratic Party chair Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn. Meanwhile, a few miles north in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the corner of Quincy Street and Malcolm X Boulevard will be imparted the name of Dr. Robert Cornegy Sr., the father of outgoing City Councilmember Robert Cornegy Jr.
Marie Bichotte, who died earlier this year at age 82, was a well-regarded seamstress and boutique owner in her native Haiti, and later in Brooklyn after immigrating in the 1970s, before embarking on a career in the hotel industry. She later served as a union delegate to the Hotel Trades Council.
The younger Bichotte told Brooklyn Paper that her mother had, over the course of 50 years in Brooklyn, always been a strong advocate for the economic empowerment of the borough’s immigrant community, helping place recent immigrants in homes and jobs, and always welcoming struggling recent immigrants into her house to provide sanctuary and support.
“Her house was like the Harriet Tubman house,” Bichotte Hermelyn said, of the house on 45th and Farragut where she grew up.
The elder Bichotte’s work to empower immigrants, particularly those from Haiti, culminated in her daughter becoming the first Haitian-American woman ever elected to office in New York City in 2014 when she won her Assembly seat. In 2020, she became one of the borough’s most powerful and influential political figures when she became boss of the county Democratic Party. Nonetheless, the pol said that while the Bichotte name will be permanently affixed in the city’s landscape, she could never fill the shoes of her late mom.
“She was a legend,” Bichotte Hermelyn said. “So we want to remember her and remember her work.”
Cornegy Sr., meanwhile, was the longtime pastor at Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Bed-Stuy, and Cornegy the Younger has said that that upbringing imbued him with a “mantra of service leadership.”
At his final stated meeting as a City Council member Wednesday, Cornegy Jr. said it was simultaneously the happiest day of his life in seeing a street co-named for his dad, and also the saddest day of his life because he was leaving a body politic where he had made many friends, like in college.
“Today for me is one of those pivotal days, where it’s actually the happiest day of my life and the saddest simultaneously,” Cornegy told the body over Zoom. “That happens one time in a man’s life.”
A spokesperson for Cornegy did not respond to requests for further comment.
Naming infrastructure after an incumbent elected’s relative is nothing new: In 2003, the corner of Sheepshead Bay Road and Emmons Avenue was named for Lena Cymbrowitz, the wife of Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz, who died while serving in the Assembly and was succeeded by her husband. In Williamsburg, the corner of Bayard Street and McGuinness Boulevard is named for Edward Lentol, a long-time state legislator and the father of even-longer-time former Assemblymember Joe Lentol, who was in office at the time of the co-naming.
And perhaps the most notable example was when former Gov. Andrew Cuomo named the newly rebuilt Tappan Zee Bridge for his late father, and former governor, Mario Cuomo.
Many other notable Brooklynites, most recently deceased, also were formally bestowed street co-namings on Wednesday (though some signs are already up), cementing their legacies on the blocks where they arguably had the greatest impact.
Buddy Scotto, the unofficial “Mayor of Carroll Gardens” who died last year, got the honor in his beloved nabe. In Clinton Hill, a section of Fulton St is now co-named for the late activist and teacher Sam Pinn. In Bay Ridge, the honor is going to Arab-American Association founder Ahmad Jaber and to Joe Joyce, owner of iconic local bar JJ Bubbles, while in Mill Basin it’ll go to the late proprietor of Pizza D’Amore, Frank Scollo.
Late District Attorney Ken Thompson has gotten the honor formalized in city law after a co-naming soiree earlier this year, as did Andreas Stylianou, the victim of a 2019 car crash in Gowanus. Prospect Lefferts Gardens will be bestowed a co-naming in honor of Lefferts Manor Association president Ebenezer “Ben” Edwards. And by the Gowanus Houses NYCHA development, the honor will go to Nicholas Heyward Sr, whose son was killed by a police officer in 1994 on the premises, after which the elder Heyward devoted his life to ending police brutality.