Bringing Jose Rizal to 69th Street in Queens

69th Street in Woodside, Queens. Photo by Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao/ Museum of the City of New York

69th Street in Woodside, Queens. Photo by Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao/ Museum of the City of New York

By Cristina DC Pastor

The spadework has begun. It may be a matter of time before 69th Street in Queens is renamed in honor of Philippine National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal.

This project, spearheaded by the National Federation of Filipino American Associations in New York (NaFFAA NY), was announced at its first conference held at NYU Palladium on January 31.

“It could be called Jose Rizal Street or Jose Rizal Way,” said NaFFAA NY President Steven Raga, who made the announcement. “It will be close to Krystal’s.” Krystal’s is a Filipino bakery and restaurant that is a popular hangout spot for FilAms. It sits at the corner of 69th Street and Roosevelt Avenue.

He said his organization has sounded out Council Member Jeremy Van Bramer, and his district office has asked for a “one pager on Jose Rizal’s importance to New Yorkers.”

Van Bramer, a Democrat, represents District 26, said to be one of New York’s “most ethnically diverse commuter towns.” The area covers the immigrant-populated neighborhoods of Woodside, Sunnyside, Long Island City, and Astoria. Many Filipinos live in this district.

The timeline is anywhere from one to two years, but Raga cautioned, a lot of shoe-leather campaigning needs to be done.

NaFFAA NY President Steven Raga. Photo by Lumen Castaneda

NaFFAA NY President Steven Raga. Photo by Lumen Castaneda

“We may need help for a petition signed by residents of Woodside,” he told The FilAm. “Worst-case scenario, we may also need people to join us at Community Board meetings.”

The proposed Jose Rizal Way is one of several initiatives outlined by NaFFAA NY in its first conference, which was attended by organization leaders, local government officials, youth and senior community members on the current state of affairs and the future prospects of the Filipino community in metropolitan New York.

Other plans include the lighting the Philippine colors at the Empire State Building to commemorate Philippine Independence, and resurrecting the marker of Jose Rizal on Fifth Avenue. Records show that Rizal visited New York in 1888 and stayed at the Fifth Avenue Hotel, which later became the Toy International Center Building. That building went through a succession of ownership from 2005, and it is not known what has become of the Rizal marker that was displayed at the lobby.

“We will also try to get that marker back on Fifth Avenue,” said Raga.

The NaFFAA NY conference was keynoted by Consul General Mario de Leon Jr. In his remarks, De Leon acknowledged the “positive initiatives” introduced by the umbrella organization NaFFAA “to find ways to solicit the commitment of all sectors of the community in pursuing the objectives of Filipino-American population.”

Likewise, he noted the rising image of Filipino Americans in number, status and dynamism. He underscored the importance of ensuring the sustainability of community organizations – many of them more than 30 years old – and welcomed the increasing participation in leadership roles of the younger generation.

President and CEO of New York Power Authority, Gil Quiniones, the highest ranking FilAm in the Cuomo Administration, urged Filipinos to leverage their number by electing more ‘kababayan’ in influential positions in American politics “so we can have a stronger voice in advancing our interests.”

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