Williamsburg street sign blunder fuels old rumors, gentrification fears

Williamsburg street sign blunder fuels old rumors, gentrification fears

A beloved Williamsburg street sign is back in place after a day-long neighborhood revolt that started when city crews removed the sign honoring the area’s Hispanic heritage and replaced it with one that simply said “Graham Av.”

The sign has been the subject of debate for several years, with rumors that gentrifiers wanted to play down the area’s Hispanic roots by removing the dually labeled “Graham Av-Av of Puerto Rico” sign hanging over the Moore Street intersection.

Those fears seemed to materialize Friday when crews briefly removed the old sign and replaced it with the singularly named one.

“I felt disgusted, I felt hurt, because the Avenue of Puerto Rico has been a part of this community has been a part of this community over 30 years,” resident Gyvis Santos said. “I said wow, it finally happened because this has been the making… for years and years and years.”

Santos shared a photo of crews changing the sign Friday on social media. It quickly spread among residents, business owners and local leaders. Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso tweeted that it was a mistake and that the old sign would be returned by Saturday. It went back up Friday afternoon.

Radames Millan has owned a Puerto Rican souvenir and goods store in the neighborhood for decades. He also organizes the Brooklyn Three Kings Day Parade, which marches down the avenue. Like many others, when he saw the new sign Friday morning, he was “very, very, very upset.”

“What I think for all the years is that these people coming into the area, they want to change everything,” Millan said. “It’s not that we are against them moving into the area, the problem is them moving into the area and pretending to change everything they found.”

According to a tweet from the DOT account, overhead street signs usually do not include co-named streets. Those signs are usually reserved for street poles. The Graham Avenue – Avenue of Puerto Rico sign is “an important exception to that practice,” and was restored, according to the agency.

“It’s a terrific relief to see the sign up there again,” Millan said. “We want them to respect us, to keep in mind that we are still here, and it’s very important that the signs are there because it is a way for people to know that the Hispanic community is still around.”

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