By Ben Brody
Boosted by an online petition, a proposal to honor the rapper Notorious B.I.G. with his name on street signs near the corner of Fulton Street and Saint James Place, where he grew up, could take its first steps toward reality tomorrow at the Transportation and Public Safety committee meeting of Brooklyn Community Board 2.
LeRoy McCarthy, who started the proposal, said he’s looking forward to the meeting.
“I’ll have my presentation ready,” said McCarthy, 46. “We have signatures, we have support.”
The meeting will be the first official trial of McCarthy’s idea, which proposes a “Christopher Wallace Way” sign commemorating the influential rapper, who was born Christopher Wallace and was murdered in 1997, at the corner where he grew up. The idea has thousands of supporters, but officials who would have to vote on it, including the board’s district manager and members of the City Council, have said the measure may face declined support.
“This board is extremely conservative about who they co-name for,” said the board’s district manager, Robert Perris.
Perris questioned if Wallace had done enough for the neighborhood to warrant the honor. He also said the support of non-residents might make people think that McCarthy, who gained some of the required signatures through an online petition, was “gaming the rules.”
Started in late August, McCarthy’s petition now has more than 3,450 signatures, but some supporters are from as far away as France and Greece. The supporters, whether local or international, say they want an honorary sign on the Clinton Hill corner, but do not want to change the corner’s name.
In addition to the online petition, McCarthy said that he has “a physical petition with thousands of signatures from the local community” and believes he will receive support from Laurie Cumbo and Robert E. Cornegy Jr., who won Democratic primaries in the nearby 35th and 36th City Council districts, respectively, and are presumed to be heading to the council from the overwhelmingly blue districts in January.
In an emailed statement, a representative wrote that Cumbo was “looking forward to meeting” with McCarthy, but declined to confirm that she had offered the official support that the community board requires from elected officials. Cornegy did not respond to our requests for comment.
If McCarthy is successful in front of the committee, which will also require support from civic associations and businesses, the whole board would then vote on the proposal. If he succeeds there, McCarthy would then need the support of the local council member. He or she would have to recommend the measure to the City Council’s Committee on Parks and Recreation for approval before the council made a final determination.
Stuart Meck, a city planner and professor at Rutgers, said that, if McCarthy does get through all those steps, the idea could still be problematic.
“You can’t have two names for a street,” Meck said. “That’s just not a good idea.” He said that multiple names can confuse firefighters, police and other municipal workers.
Though thousands of supporters do not live in the area, many local residents have been enthusiastic about the possible change.
“It can be a point of pride for people in the neighborhood,” said Tyler Combelic, a neighborhood resident who manages Cochinita, a restaurant near the corner.
Mark Naison, a professor at Fordham University who teaches a course on hip-hop and has helped pass two co-namings in the Bronx, said the effort should be a “no-brainer.”
“Biggie was like the soundtrack of … Brooklyn male adolescence in the ’90s,” Naison said. “He was the spirit of rebellious young people in the crack era. He was their historian; he was their spokesperson; he was their symbol of resilience.”
The Transportation and Public Safety committee meeting takes place in the Callahan Center at St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, between Clinton and Court Streets.