MLK Boulevard: It’s Official

TM_090809_014.jpgMinutes after aldermen voted to rename a downtown thoroughfare for a late civil-rights hero, they had to decide whether to allow ads to fly on his new street.

The Board of Aldermen voted unanimously on Tuesday night to change the name of North Frontage Road to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

Aldermen were not as unified when it came time to vote on a proposal to allow advertising banners to be displayed along the newly named road. Following a vigorous debate, the proposal to hang ad banners from the Air Rights Garage was voted down.

The vote to rename a city street for the slain civil rights leader was the culmination of a months-long process. The idea was first proposed in May by West River Alderman Yusuf Shah (pictured), who put forward Whalley Avenue as the best candidate for re-naming. The targeted street was later changed to Dixwell and finally to Frontage Road.

“It is appropriate and inspiring to bring life to this major artery in the name of Dr. Martin Luther King,” said Fair Haven Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale, who had pushed for Frontage Road to be selected. Sturgis-Pascale said that she hopes that the new street serves to connect and redefine the area.

“My dream has come true,” said Shah. He thanked Newhallville Aldermen Katrina Jones and Charles Blango for their support on the matter and said that he hopes MLK Boulevard will become “a new mecca in the city of New Haven.”

Near the end of the meeting, another agenda item came up dealing with the newly-named boulevard. Sign Lite, Inc. a North Haven-based company, sought permission to mount five storefront banners on the north side of Air Rights Garage facing North Frontage Road. The signs would advertise Subway, Dunkin Donuts, and the other businesses located at 66 York St. in the underpass that connects North and South Frontage.

TM_090809_012.jpgSpeaking in favor of the motion, Sturgis-Pascale (pictured) said that the signs could have a traffic- calming effect and bring visual interest to one of the gateways to the city.

Beaver Hills Alderman Carl Goldfield saw it differently. “This is visual blight on the city,” he said. Subway and Dunkin Donut have more than enough advertising “to last us for eons,” he said.

Air Rights is “an ugly garage to begin with,” he added later.

Fair Haven Alderwoman Migdalia Castro, who abstained from the vote because she works at the garage, said that advertisements could be helpful for visitors from out of town who are looking for a place to eat.

“This is in my ward,” said Downtown Alderwoman Bitsie Clark. “I hate to see us making laws and rules that are unfriendly to business.” The restaurants that would be advertised are struggling small businesses, Clark said.

Yale Alderwoman Rachel Plattus disagreed with that assessment. Subway and Dunkin Donuts are “not small businesses,” she said. “These are huge corporations.”

In a roll-call vote of 12 to 10, the proposal to allow banners on the garage failed.

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posted by: Walt on September 9, 2009  11:39am

For real ” visual blight”  see the massive signs on another frontage road,  “Sargent Drive”  on the formerly unique Armstrong Tire headquarters..

Really cheapens New Haven’s appearance for I95 travelers.

posted by: Norton Street on September 9, 2009  12:10pm

North Frontage Road is not a boulevard. It is a two lane one way street. Maybe if the entire route 34 was changed to MLK Blvd that might make sense because one could conceivably see that as an avenue with a median aka boulevard.
This vote should have waited until after a final plan for the redevelopment of route 34 was okay’d.

posted by: anon on September 9, 2009  12:48pm

Norton Street: When a new, human-scaled, neighborhood-friendly street is built to replace the horrific Frontage Road, they can just transfer the new name to that, no?

posted by: Andy on September 9, 2009  12:56pm

why didn’t you mention the Chicken Debate?  That took up 45 minutes of the longer than usual meeting, and was the most interesting thing that happened.

posted by: Don B on September 9, 2009  1:30pm

I find it funny that a woman who attends and represents a mult-billion dollar corporation would stick peshew “huge corporations” (which by the way are individually owned by individuals).  I would also think this is something for the people on the zoning boards, not the legislative body of new haven.

posted by: Alderman Shah on September 9, 2009  2:11pm

Norton Street
I want to first thank you for your interest in this matter.

Have to say that this is the best time to make changes to the street names. Before anything else happens we wanted the MLK name there.

The debate is over and we have named the street. We are moving on to the next steps in the development of the now MLK corridor. I welcome your future comments and suggestions.

posted by: nfjanette on September 9, 2009  3:23pm

North Frontage Road is not a boulevard. It is a two lane one way street.

Don’t confuse political theater with facts, it detracts from the entertainment value.

Mr. Shah: please tell me you were misquoted as reported: “My dream has come true”.  Surely, as you indicated in your previous reply, your actual goal is to rejuvenate your section of the city, not to grandstand on the name of the street.

posted by: Alderman Shah on September 9, 2009  4:58pm


“Don’t confuse political theater with facts, it detracts from the entertainment value”.

The only theatrics I see is you trying to make a name for yourself on this blog by throwing out insults and sound bites that have no redeeming value.

I challenge you to be respectful in your comments to me and the issues, items and concerns that I bring to this blog in search of reasonable community input and debate.

I have no interest or time to “grand stand” on the basis of any matter that I bring before this Blog, the Board of Alderman and the People of the City of New Haven.

the fact is that I am sincere in my goals to make this city a better place to live, work and to raise families. I am not here to “entertain"or play political games.

My suggestion to you is this; Make some time to sit with me in planning meetings. Working in this way has value and reciprocates progress in the community far more than what you think.

As for my dreams, those are just that, my dreams. I seek to make any dreams that I have reality, even if that dream was just a street called Rev. Dr. MKL Blvd. 

In the coming weeks and months I will embark on a number of challenges to our city. It is my hope that you are a part of the collective solution and not a part of the historical procrastinating rhetoric that has plagued our city from making the improvements that it needs.