A group of Malverne High School students are seeking to rename a street honoring a village settler — who also was a leader of the local Ku Klux Klan chapter.
Lindner Place, which divides the Malverne Public Library and Maurice W. Downing elementary school, has been named for early Malverne farmer and settler Paul Lindner. In addition to helping settle the community, historians say Lindner also led cross burnings and marches for the KKK.
The street runs next to one of the first elementary schools forced to be desegregated to allow Black students to attend in 1963, Superintendent Lorna Lewis said.
Following a unity march after the killing of George Floyd, about 20 students researched Lindner in social studies classes to present documentaries, art projects and poetry for why Lindner Place should or shouldn’t be renamed, Lewis said.
The students presented their request to rename the street last spring to the village board, but board members have not taken action. The students also presented their project at the school in October.
Village officials said they have not received a written proposal to change the name.
School district officials, who said they cannot take a position on renaming the street, said the decision is now left to the village board.
"The students are empowered and now they’re angry. As young people, they were hopeful if they showed what’s right, but they’re disappointed there’s been no response from the village," Lewis said. "Our students are very diligent and I was very impressed with what they did. We hope our students can be great advocates for themselves and our community."
Students and school officials said they were waiting for the village to respond.
"Their reaction was disappointing," said Olivia Brown, 14, speaking of the village board. "It felt like they were entertaining us and did not empathize with our cause. There’s such responsibility you have as a leader of a community. People should be offended and the people should take action."
Residents have launched a petition online with more than 5,400 signatures to rename the street for Elizabeth Cherry, one of the first Black students and teachers in Malverne.
"I understand the argument he did contribute a lot to Malverne, but the fact is, his actions as the exalted leader of the KKK are too unconscionable with his legacy to be associated with Malverne," Geoffrey Enwere, 17, said. "I don’t believe it reflects the increasingly diverse place Malverne is becoming."
Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett said Wednesday he was impressed with the students' initial presentation made before the board last spring, but the board needs a written proposal to add it to the village agenda before a street can be renamed. He also said the village would have to conduct a study working with the U.S. Postal Service.
Corbett said he is willing to meet with school officials and students, but has not heard any discussion of the street since last spring. He said he and other village board members were not invited to the school presentation last fall.
"The kids who presented that evening made me proud as the mayor of the village," Corbett said. "I am quite perplexed by the school district not reaching out directly to address any of these issues," he added.
- Named for Paul Lindner, early settler of Malverne and leader of the local Ku Klux Klan chapter
- Online petition with 5,000 signatures to rename street Cherry Place.
- Students made a presentation to the village board, asking to rename the street.