PARK SLOPE — The effort to rename a local street after an underground rapper who grew up in Park Slope got initial approval from the Community Board 6 transportation committee Thursday night after a passionate appeal by family and friends of the hip-hop artist.
The committee voted in favor of renaming Degraw Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues after Robert Diaz, who performed under the name Pumpkinhead. Diaz died suddenly earlier this year at the age of 39.
The street renaming must be approved by the full board and by the City Council to move forward.
Committee member S.J. Avery said Thursday she was skeptical at first when she heard about the effort to honor Diaz. "My first reaction was, 'Rapper — yech,'" Avery said. "But he wasn't that kind of rapper."
She added, "As Park Slope changes, I think it's important to remember who was there and that we have a tradition that's longer than the new condos that are there now."
Diaz was well-known in the New York hip-hop world but remained an underground artist in part because of his refusal to rap about drugs, guns and violence, said his longtime friend Claudia Imperiale, who organized the bid to rename Degraw Street.
"He spoke about his life and his truth, he spoke about the love of his friends, family, and of course growing up in Park Slope, Brooklyn," Imperiale said of Diaz's music.
"He is an example to everyone, that you can be whatever you want to be and to never give up on your dreams."