Talk about new and M-proved!
The city will add the letter “M” to a Manhattan Beach street that was originally named after a notorious anti-Semite, so that it will honor a Revolutionary War heroine instead.
Corbin Place, bounded by Cass Place and the Manhattan Beach Esplanade, was named for Austin Corbin — a railroad executive who bought the seaside village in the 1800s and made it into a resort town that barred Jews. So the city has agreed to add the single letter to the street name to instead commemorate Margaret Corbin, a nurse who fought for American independence, said the chairwoman of Community Board 15’s Commemorative Street Co-Naming Committee during a meeting on Sept. 26.
“Austin Corbin was a person that bought all of Manhattan Beach from a real estate tycoon for $1,500. He built the Manhattan Beach Restaurant and hotel, but Mr. Corbin refused to serve people of the Jewish faith,” said Rita Napolitano. “Margaret Corbin was a woman who fought in the American Revolution and was a brave woman whom we should be proud of.”
Margaret Corbin accompanied her husband, an artillery officer, in the defense of Fort Washington in northern Manhattan in 1776. When her husband fell in battle, she took over operating his cannon until she was seriously wounded, becoming the first woman in American history to receive a military pension.
Austin Corbin, on the other hand, was a robber baron who forced the Montaukett Indians off their land in order to consolidate the Long Island Rail Road, and purchased an Arkansas cotton planation after the Civil War which he worked with convict laborers. In addition to banning Jews from Manhattan Beach, he also served as secretary of the American Society for the Suppression of Jews.
Local leaders and residents had long wanted to change the thoroughfare’s sign to honor someone who actually did good in the world — but worried that swapping it for a completely new name would cause problems for the people who live along the street. Instead, simply adding one letter keeps the name, but changes its meaning, said one of the local pols who helped the committee come up with the new name.
“Austin Corbin was proudly anti-Semitic and does not deserve to be honored with a street named after him. That being said, changing a street name entirely can be a stressful experience for residents who would be required to adjust their deeds, IDs, and other paperwork. We settled on a compromise — co-naming Corbin Place for Margaret Corbin, who was a Revolutionary War hero and a New York City legend,” said Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Manhattan Beach), who worked with Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island) on the slight but significant name change. “This symbolic gesture is a way to show that we will not glorify someone who epitomized hatred and anti-Semitism, while also not inconveniencing the people who live on Corbin Place.”
Community Board 15 voted unanimously to approve the co-naming for Corbin Place on Sept. 26.