MALVERNE, N.Y. (PIX11) — For more than a century, a street in Malverne was named after a Grand Titan of the Ku Klux Klan. That changed on Thursday after years of efforts to get it done. Civil rights leaders and residents alike applauded the change, but they also said that it may not have happened without extensive work by young people from the community. 

At a noontime ceremony, Mayor Keith Corbett gathered dozens of school kids, their teachers, parents and neighbors in front of Maurice Downing Jr. Elementary. There, he made a reference to the process of making the street name change that some people criticized for being too slow. 

“[We] wanted to verify certain things before we jumped to conclusions,” he said, “and I took some heat for that.”

In the end, the change happened, with Corbett leading a unanimous vote for change by the town council. His predecessors did not approve requests for changing the name of Lindner Place. 

The five-block-long street had been named by Paul Lindner, after himself, when he’d owned land adjacent to the roadway in the first quarter of the 20th century. Lindner had been the head of the Ku Klux Klan for all of Long Island and parts of Queens. In that role, he oversaw a variety of terrorist acts, including burning down an orphanage for African American children on two separate occasions. 

On Thursday, however, a century later, African American children were on hand with white, Latino, Asian and other children to witness history in a positive way.

Corbett praised junior high and high school students who had been active in getting the street name change.

“With the children coming and showing us the right path,” he said at the podium, “we came together.” 

He was referring to how students at the local high school and middle school had filed a formal proposal for a street name change two years ago, and had written a 120-page research report explaining why Lindner was not worthy of having a street named in his honor. 

The result of their work was evident at the ceremony on Thursday. 

The mayor climbed a ladder at the corner of the former Lindner Place and St. Thomas Place and ceremoniously removed a bow and a cloth covering up a new street sign. It was emblazoned with the new name of the street: Acorn Way. 

Doris Hicks Newkirk, the head of the local branch of the NAACP, said that her organization had been calling for the name change for two decades, to no avail. 

It was during the racial equity marches of 2020 that the effort got a boost that brought the whole town together.

“We did a peace rally after the George Floyd incident,” she said in an interview, as she called over a young white man, T.J. Magno, to stand next to her. “T.J. got in touch with me and said, ‘Ms. Hicks, I’d like to help.'”

On Thursday, Hicks Newkirk led other NAACP members in presenting Magno with a plaque that read, in part, “Good Trouble,” a reference to a phrase from congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis. 

Hicks Newkirk said that Magno had made good trouble of his own during the process that resulted in the name change. 

“It had bumpy roads, it had smooth roads, it had stop signs, but it’s done,” she said. 

Olivia Brown, 16, is a sophomore at the local high school. She was one of the leaders of the students who had compiled the research paper and submitted the name change proposal. 

After Thursday’s ceremony, she said that she was looking forward to the street always having a name that refers to the Malverne Village motto, “Oaks From Acorns.”

“The little kids who go to school here,” she said, “walking down this street and walking down Acorn Way instead of Lindner Place, that’s just amazing that it’s a thing now.”

The local government also had a plaque erected at the corner of the new Acorn Way and St. Thomas Place that tells the story of what happened to make the name change.

At that corner is the Malverne Public Library. It will house a display explaining the name change, that will include one of the now defunct Lindner Place signs. Some of the old signs will also be on display in exhibits at the Malverne Historical and Preservation Society and the school board. 

The school system has one last task related to changing the name of the street. The old name is still displayed on the sign for the elementary school where Thursday’s ceremony took place. 

That school, the Maurice W. Downing Jr. Elementary School, had been named after Paul Lindner until the 1980s. The address on its sign still reads 55 Lindner Place. 

Schools Superintendent Lorna Lewis told PIX11 News that changing the address on the school sign to Acorn Way is “already in the works.”