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Antonin Scalia's Name Doesn't Ring a Bell With His Hometown Community Board

By Katie Honan | March 24, 2017 1:01pm | Updated on March 26, 2017 3:01pm
 The new Elmhurst Library is slated to open to the public in late fall.
The new Elmhurst Library is slated to open to the public in late fall.
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Queens Library

Decades before he became a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia was just a kid from a brick attached home on O'Connell Court in Elmhurst.

But despite growing up to be one of the most powerful men in the United States, some members of his local community board didn't know who he was when a member recommended a new library be named in his honor.

"I think this is the most special motion I can make in my 30 years on the board... We have been very blessed to have him achieve this, being a member of our communities," Community Board 4 member Ann Pfoser Darby — whose controversial statements regarding "illegals" using bike lanes came under fire earlier this month — said in recommending Scalia be honored at February's meeting.

But when it came time to vote on the motion to approve the board's recommendation, some drew a blank on the 30-year Supreme Court justice. 

"People don't really know who he is," one board member yelled, as District Manager Christian Cassagnol asked for a biography to be distributed to members. 

"There are more notable people from Elmhurst," member Edgar Moya said. "I'd like to include other people so we basically have choices."

The board later took a vote on the library renaming — initially counting the votes wrong, incorrectly tallying the lone "no" vote as a "yay" for the motion.

Just the suggestion of renaming the library for Scalia, a staunch conservative who opposed the legalization of abortion and same-sex marriage, among other Supreme Court rulings, was criticized by openly LGBT Councilman Danny Dromm.

"Throughout his unfortunately long career, Scalia wielded his power to ensure the oppression of the people who call Elmhurst and Corona home. Scalia’s disgraceful legacy is anathema to everything our harmoniously diverse community stands for," Dromm wrote in a letter to the board.

"His vitriolic rhetoric against recent immigrants is enough to preclude him from consideration."

Regardless of the vote, it's unlikely any library will be named for Scalia. 

Libraries across Queens are named only for their neighborhood, a Queens library spokeswoman said.