Here's a story from this week's Riverdale Review.
By Brendan McHugh
An Irish name may be added on to Tibbett Avenue.
The traffic and transportation committee of Community Board 8 unanimously voted in favor of adding ‘Frank Durkan Way’ to Tibbett Avenue between 240th and 238th streets, adjacent to Gaelic Park.
Over a dozen people came to last week’s meeting to share an antidote about Frank Durkan’s sincerity and commitment to Gaelic Park and the Irish community, and dozens of other people and organizations sent letters.
“He died a rich man in his heart,” said Martin Lyons, a longtime friend of Durkan’s and the organizer of the effort.
Frank Durkan Way wouldn’t become the actual name of the street; that would remain Tibbett Avenue. The new street name would be an honorary distinction only.
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Community board rules indicate that for the name change to succeed, the full community board must vote in favor of the resolution in two consecutive months. After that, the city council member must introduce the resolution in the Council and it be passed there. The City Council votes on name changes in batches, so the next vote may not take place until the spring of 2012.
According to a staff member for City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell, Koppell would support the name change if the community board supports it.
Manhattan College, the Gaelic Athletic Association, Riverdale Steakhouse, the Greentree Bar and Restaurant and dozens of other local and citywide organizations have lent their support for the change, many of them citing Durkan as the voice for the Irish community for the last 50 years.
“They’re people from all walks of life that wanted to show their support for Frank Durkan,” Lyons said.
Durkan, an attorney and human rights activist, died in 2006. According to his obituary in the New York Times, he was a “fierce and clever defender of Irish nationalists.”
A scion of the O’Dwyer political dynasty, he was the nephew of William O’Dwyer, the mayor of New York in the late 1940s.
One of Durkan’s most famous clients was George Harrison, the Irish Republican Army’s main gunrunner in the United States for many years. When the prosecuter accused him of having run guns for the previous six months, Durkan said his client was deeply insulted, and said, “Mr. Harrison has been running guns for the last 25 years at least.” Durkan was able to convince the jury that the Central Intelligence Agency was behind the scheme, and Harrison was found not guilty.
But the main support for Frank Durkan Way came not from his courtroom heroics, but from his unwavering support for the Bronx Irish community and Gaelic Park. One speaker at the traffic and transportation meeting cited his chairmanship of Americans for a New Irish Agenda, a group that grew to such notoriety that he was given the opportunity to introduce Bill Clinton at an event when the former Arkansas governor was running for president.
“There is no other person I could think of that should have his name near Gaelic Park,” said Tony Creaney, a community board member.
When asked why the group of supporters did not want to rename West 240th Street instead of Tibbett Avenue, Lyons said they wanted to save 240th Street for someone else of even greater importance, though who that may be is still unknown to even them.