Street Renaming Sought for Late Councilwoman Miriam Friedlander

By Patrick Hedlund on October 11, 2011 2:11pm 

Miriam Friedlander, who represented the East Village/Lower East Side on the City Council from 1974 to 1991.
Miriam Friedlander, who represented the East Village/Lower East Side on the City Council from 1974 to 1991.
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NYC Council

EAST VILLAGE — Outspoken former City Councilwoman Miriam Friedlander could have the street she lived on in the East Village named after her under a proposal to be discussed by the local community board.

Friedlander, who died two years ago at the age of 95, earned a reputation for her progressive politics and advocacy on behalf of the LGBT and poverty-stricken communities of her East Village and Lower East Side district.

During her time on the council, from 1974 to 1991, she often clashed with the administration and became known for her leftist leanings during a particularly turbulent time for the district.

"She never did anything because it was right politically," said Community Board 3 district manager Susan Stetzer, who’s lived in the East Village since 1970, and counted Friedlander as both her Council representative and later a friend.

“She always, until the day she died, did what she thought was right.”

In 1988, Friedlander defended the homeless squatters of Tompkins Square Park who were ordered out of their encampment, leading to violent clashes between police and protesters. She was also a tireless advocate for gay rights in an area that contributed greatly to the city’s rich LGBT culture.

Friedlander became one of the few women on the City Council after narrowly beating out current Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for the seat. Despite her seeming disadvantage as both a woman and a left-of-left politician, friends said Friedlander never betrayed her constituents and always stood her ground politically.

“She was really tough on people but, you know, she had to be tough to make her way in the City Council as a woman the way she did,” Stetzer said.

Even after her Council career ended, Friedlander still stayed active in local politics by campaigning for candidates well into her 80s, and was working a campaign in lower Manhattan on 9/11 when the planes struck the World Trade Center, Stetzer noted.

“I do think she was never the same after that,” she said.

Regardless, Friedlander remained a presence in the East Village up until her final days.

“Her last year, she’d still be out on the street,” Stetzer added, “standing at the comer of Second Avenue and Sixth Street just to see what was going on in the neighborhood.

Community Board 3’s transportation committee will discuss the street renaming on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., 59 East Fourth St.

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