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Furor over Corbin Place name change - Why some aren’t rushing to rid neighborhood of anti-Semite’s legacy

Cleansing an anti-Semitic stain in Manhattan Beach is a lot like the movie “Jaws.” Faced with a street renaming meeting the size of a monstrous great white shark, the members of Community Board 15 looked at each other and said, “We’re going to need a bigger room.” That’s just what the board did as they prepare for the February 26 discussion on the future, or lack thereof, of Corbin Place. Whereas the 7 p.m. meeting was initially set to take place in the Faculty Dining Room, U 112, at Kingsborough Community College, the room has now been changed to U 220, which can accommodate a larger crowd. Ever since a Daily News article surfaced last month about who the Manhattan Beach street is named after – a raging anti-Semite by most historical accounts – a push has been made to get the street renamed, hopefully in honor of a Jewish person who’s contributed greatly to the community. The late former State Senator Donald Halperin is one of the many names that have been bandied about as the new namesake for the Manhattan Beach street. But the renaming move is suffering from some concern: namely by residents worried that they’re not going to get their mail if the change is made. Over the last two weeks, several dozen Corbin Place residents have contacted the Community Board 15 office, demanding to know how the name change would affect everything from their mail to the deeds to their homes. “It seems that the news has finally hit them that they [Corbin Place residents] will have to do some work,” said Community Board 15 Chair Theresa Scavo, who said that most of the calls she’s answered at the board offices were from residents voicing their outrage. “I’ve answered about 50 phone calls all about the same things,” she said. “Over and over I’m told that people are afraid that the name change is going to be more like they’re moving.” Dozens more calls regarding the same concerns have been sent to State Senator Carl Kruger’s office, as well as the offices of City Councilmember Michael Nelson, who is spearheading the charge to get the street renamed. To assuage the concerns of residents, Nelson is reportedly bringing representatives from the United States Post Office, as well as an attorney to talk about what block residents will and will not be required to do if the name change goes through. The street, ironically, is already named for the person who put Manhattan Beach on the map: Austin Corbin. In the late 1800s, Corbin built the first railroads to the Town of Gravesend, which was later broken up into the neighborhoods of Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach and Coney Island. Corbin is also credited with building several hotels in the area, including the Manhattan Beach Hotel, a premier vacation spot for millionaires, elected officials and the Broadway stars of the time. But sometimes you have to take history warts and all. As indicated in Daily News columnist Denis Hamill’s story, besides building up Manhattan Beach, Corbin was a president of the American Society of the Suppression of Jews. He often spoke out against Jews and Jewish causes. According to an article in the Brooklyn Eagle that Hamill cited in his piece, Corbin said Jews “were a pretentious class who expect three times as much for their money as other people.” “They [Jews] are a detestable and vulgar people,” he repeatedly said in statements to the press. The fresh look at historical facts has prompted many to demand a name change, said Nelson. “The majority of people living in the area are Jewish,” Nelson said in an earlier interview. “It just doesn’t seem right to have a street, especially in our little corner of the world, named after this despicable character.”

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