Council ‘urges’ city to continue work identifying parks and streets named after slaveholders
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Many of you may not know this, but at least two of the three founding fathers of our city had ties to slavery, including Nathaniel Rochester, the city’s namesake.
The city is compiling a list of parks and streets named after slaveholders and traders — like Rochester — with the goal of renaming them and News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean spoke to the person charged with making the list.
"This park, right along the river is named after who?" I asked standing on the Andrews Street bridge over the Genesee River.
"Charles Carroll, one of the city’s founders," answered city historian Christine Ridarsky.
Charles Carroll and Nathaniel Rochester are two of the names on the preliminary list. They, along with William Fitzhugh, bought the original parcel of land that is now the core of downtown Rochester.
It’s Ridarsky’s job to research the names and any ties to public spaces in the city.
"We’ve known for a long time that Charles Carroll was a slave owner. He brought slaves with him when he moved into Western New York," she said.
Ridarsky’s list of public spaces with names tied to slavery includes Carroll Park along the Genesee River and Nathaniel (Rochester) Square on Alexander Street.
School 46 on Newcastle Road is named after Carroll too.
A resolution in front of the city council "strongly urges" the city to continue the works with the goal of "renaming these spaces."
Brean: "What is the value in doing this?"
Ridarsky: "I think it’s important that we think about the message we’re giving, especially to our youth. History is complicated, it’s complex. We’re not going to erase names like Nathaniel Rochester or Charles Carroll from our history, that would be detrimental to the full story. But should our youth be faced today with names of people who wanted them to be enslaved?"
Brean: "The trickiest question has to be the fact that the city is named after a known slaveholder."
Ridarsky: "That is a tricky question."
Brean: "So how do we deal with that?"
Ridarsky: "That is a much more complex question… And we’ve got such a rich history in this city – people like Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony who are associated with the city of Rochester. So it’s not as simple as just renaming the city, we’d have to think of the ramifications for the entirety of our city’s history."
Brean: "It’s a little easier to rename a park."
New York City said it’s renaming 16 parks because some of the original names have ties to slavery.
In Rochester, the work is complicated because it includes street names so Ridarsky has to figure out what person the street was named after and if that name has a problem.
If you have information you can share it with the historian. Email Christine.Ridarsky@libraryweb.org.
The city council is scheduled to vote on the resolution a week from Tuesday. You can read it in full below (mobile users, click here):
December 14, 2021 Additional Proposed Legislation by News10NBC on Scribd