A trailblazing gay rights activist who left her stamp on the world as a historic and heroic leader may soon be memorialized on a Flushing street sign.
Community Board 7 passed a motion on Monday to honor Jeanne Manford with a street-name change for standing up for gays and lesbians at a time when homosexuality was still considered a mental disorder.
Manford started a local support group in 1972 for parents of gays and lesbians. It turned into a worldwide movement called Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) that now has more than 350 chapters and 200,000 members in the country.
She also supported her gay son by famously rallying with him at the New York Pride March.
Manford died this January at age 92. She was posthumously awarded the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal.
“It’s emotional for me as an openly gay legislator in the City Council,” said Councilmember Danny Dromm. “What Jeanne did took extreme courage to do in 1972. Times have changed tremendously, but in those days, she could have lost everything.”
The lawmaker and community board want to co-name 171st Street, between 33rd and 35th Avenues, to “Manford Family PFLAG Way.”
The Manfords lived on the street and took in youngsters who were thrown out of their homes for being gay, Dromm said.
“Jeanne Manford was to us what Rosa Parks is to the black civil rights movement,” Dromm said. “It took an act of courage by a mother for the love of her son.”
However, Flushing resident James Trikas and board member Nick Corrado, who is also an FDNY chief officer, disagreed.
They said street-names should be reserved for military, police and fire department officers killed in the line of duty.
“If you want to memorialize things, well, put a plaque somewhere, landmark their house if you want,” Trikas said. “It does not belong on the street sign.”
Corrado, the only board member who voted against the motion, touted
Manford’s legacy but said it was not on the same level as those who serve the city, state and country.
“As wonderful as those acts of kindness are, I cannot, in my own opinion, say it’s the same as laying down your life — your life — for someone you don’t know at all in the line of duty,” he said.
Community Board 7 approved the proposal 30-1. The motion now needs approval from the borough president and City Council.
“If you open a history book on the LGBT movement, she’s in these books,” said Democratic State Committeeman Matt Silverstein, who is openly gay.
“This is someone who made an extreme impact on our community. I think it’s an incredibly deserving honor.”
- Jamaica street co-named for civil rights activist Jefferson Diggs
- Elmhurst street named for AIDS activist
- Woodside street co-named after beloved community member Lou Rispoli