WEST VILLAGE — A disabled Bedford Street man who spent decades collecting money for local nonprofits could soon have a street named after him.
Selman, who had an intellectual disability, devoted the majority of his time to raising money for the Bedford Barrow Commerce Block Association, by selling thousands of dollars of raffle tickets each year since 1978, residents said.
The money Selman collected was donated to neighborhood nonprofits, even as Selman subsisted on Social Security checks.
"He was like our ambassador," said neighbor Kathryn Donaldson, one of the residents leading the push for Larry Selman Way. "He was just the most wonderful person that you would ever know."
Shirley Secunda, the CB2 committee's chairwoman, called Selman a "rare person."
He was born in 1942 in East New York, Brooklyn, but he lived on Bedford Street for more than 50 years, from the time his uncle moved him there when his parents died in the 1960s, until his own death in 2013.
In 2002, filmmaker Alice Elliott made an Academy Award-nominated documentary about Selman called "The Collector of Bedford Street." The film describes how to community mobilized after realizing that Selman's elderly uncle and caretaker was nearing the end of his life.
In a sharp role reversal, the community struck out to raise funds for Selman, and created a trust to be administered through the UJA Federation Trust for Disabled Adults, so Selman could live out the rest of his life in his Bedford Street apartment even after his uncle died.
"I always feel that I got much more out of the relationship than he got from me," Elliott said of making the film with Selman.
In their letter to the community board, Donaldson and Elliott made an emotional argument for Selman's worthiness.
"Larry was a man who collected thousands of dollars for others, but lived at the poverty level himself; suffered from depression, but told jokes to make others laugh; created a vibrant community by connecting strangers with each other, while often feeling isolated and lonely himself," they wrote. "He had a low IQ, but a big heart."
"Our community is stronger because of this unlikely leader, who showed us what it means to be a good neighborhood for over 35 years."