MALVERNE, Long Island (PIX11) — From statues of Confederate generals being taken down, to plans to change the names of military bases, significant efforts to promote racial equity have made national headlines. Now, the efforts are being focused on a small, neighborhood thoroughfare in Malverne, a Long Island village of 8,500. A growing group of residents is calling on the village board to change the name of a street named after a white supremacist, and some middle- and high school students are leading the cause.
The street in question is Lindner Place, a five block-long roadway with 11 houses, a school and the village library lining it.
For a year-and-a-half, residents have been attending meetings of the Village Board of Trustees, calling on them to change the name of the street, which honors Paul Lindner, a landowner here in the early 20th Century, who was also the most senior leader of the Ku Klux Klan on Long Island, which had a strong presence here, and in politics nationwide, in the 1920s.
Board members said that they wanted to see more research about Lindner’s past.
At their most recent public meeting, on March 2, Olivia Brown, a freshman at the local high school, spoke at the podium.
“You requested a formal proposal, you received it. You requested ample resources and a report,” she said, holding up a thick stack of documents. “You received it.”
Brown is one of about two dozen students from the village and surrounding communities who put together the 120-page report about Lindner and his racist past.
He named Lindner Place for himself, when he owned the land that it spans, more than a century ago. Using primary historical documents, the students’ report, along with artwork, a documentary film, and other materials that they created and compiled, conclude that Lindner was not someone of whom the village should be proud.
Don Pupke, a local historian, was among the people the students consulted in their research. He pointed out that Lindner became the Grand Titan of the Klan chapter, which meant his jurisdiction covered “all of Nassau and Suffolk counties, and part of Queens,” Pupke said in an interview.
Among many terrorist acts that the Long Island Klan carried out, Pupke said, was burning down a Roman Catholic orphanage for African American children in Yaphank.
“And when Father Quinn rebuilt it,” Pupke said, “the Klan burned it down again, all while Paul Lindner was leader.”
Lindner’s writings are explicit that he was anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant and a white supremacist.
There was an effort in 1969 to 1971 or so to rename the street, in the wake of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s death. King actually came to Malverne in 1965 to promote integrating the schools. From the 1960s to now, the name change hasn’t happened, but after calls for racial equity, including a Unity March in the weeks after George Floyd’s murder, students got involved again. They’ve appealed to the village board, which is led by Mayor Keith Corbett.
“I’m in favor of changing the name,” Corbett said in an interview. “If it’s gonna provide the unity and the necessary piece we need for Malverne to continue to be Malverne.”
It’s by no means a done deal yet, as Brown, 15, said. “I will keep pushing until it’s done,” she said in an interview at her school. “Change is done by people who push to see it through.”
The village board has a vote set for April 6.
Editor’s note: Mayor Corbett on Sunday clarified that his support of the name change was not conditional. PIX11 News updated this post to reflect that.