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Proposal to extend Sistrunk Boulevard along Northeast Sixth Street from Federal Highway westward to Andrews Avenue gaining momentum

PROPOSAL DR. JAMES SISTRUNK Proposal to extend Sistrunk Boulevard along Northeast Sixth Street from Federal Highway westward to Andrews Avenue gaining momentum

The Late Dr. James Sistrunk

Proposal to extend Sistrunk Boulevard along Northeast Sixth Street from Federal Highway westward to Andrews Avenue gaining momentum

The late Dr. James Sistrunk was a Black pioneer in Fort Lauderdale who delivered thousands of babies during his medical career beginning in the 1930’s through the early 1960’s.

By Charles Moseley

Until recently a proposal to add the name Sistrunk Boulevard to Northeast Sixth Street between Andrews Avenue east to Federal Highway appeared to be divided among two communities, largely along racial lines. Now, due to a recent development, the issue appears to be headed to a peaceful resolution. According to an aide from the Fort Lauderdale City Commission, the matter is scheduled to come before city commissioners in early November in an effort to reach their decision.

The decision on whether to add the name Sistrunk Boulevard between Andrews Avenue and Federal Highway along Northeast Sixth Street has been suggested by the City of Fort Lauderdale’s Community Re-development Agency for years and viewed as leading toward greater economic development in the area.

City Commissioner Bobby DuBose called a meeting at Carter Park a few weeks ago in an effort to garner support to extend the Sistrunk Boulevard name eastward beyond historic boundaries of the city’s historically Black area – adding it to Northeast Sixth Street signs between Andrews Avenue and Federal Highway.

There was a coalition of Black political leaders in attendance at the meeting which read like a Who’s Who among Broward County Black elected officials. They included State Sen. Chris Smith, State Rep. Perry Thurs-ton, School Board member Rosalind Osgood, Lauderdale Lakes Commissioner Eric Haynes, as well as Lauderdale Lakes City Manager Jonathan Allen.

Until most recently the idea reportedly had pitted residents living in the predominantly white neighborhoods of Victoria Park and Flagler Village who opposed adding Sistrunk Boulevard to Northeast Sixth Street against residents from the predominantly Black community within the Sistrunk corridor.

The Flagler Village Neighborhood Civic Association, led by developer Alan Hooper, overwhelmingly voted in favor of the change during a meeting last week.

“I believe that two neighborhoods fighting with one another is not productive. And I don’t think it’s something that a civic leader like Dr. Sistrunk would want,” said Hooper.

Historically, there was a time in Fort Lauderdale’s not so distant past when the City’s so-called “Colored Section” stood between the railroad tracks to the east and west and was bordered between Sunrise Boulevard to the north and Broward Boulevard to the south.

George Burrows, Sr. is considered an elder statesman among business owners along the Sistrunk corridor. Burrow’s Electrical has been in business since 1949. Burrows is widely respected as a business pioneer in Broward County.

Ironically, Burrow’s eldest daughter Avis won an essay writing contest when she attended Stranahan High School in the early 1970’s. The essay was entitled, “Why Northwest Sixth Street Should Be Re-named Sistrunk Boulevard.”

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“I knew Dr. Sistrunk personally. He was our family doctor. Being that he was the first doctor to serve Fort Lauderdale’s African American community, he treated members of our community when we were unable to receive treatment at Broward General Hospital. He along with the late Dr. Von D. Mizell, provided a place for sick patients who were Black to be treated beginning in the 1940’s when both men established and developed Provident Hospital.”

“I believe that Sistrunk Boulevard should continue east to Federal Highway along Northeast Sixth Street because it gets kind of hidden behind the door. It should be extended because Sistrunk Boulevard is a thoroughfare east from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard (Northwest 31st Avenue) to Federal Highway. It would help lure people to the area which would help boost economic development. We are a part of the City of Fort Lauderdale and Sixth Street is a part of the city. We have the right to express our beliefs,” Burrows added.

Citing the city’s continued moves toward supporting diversity, Mayor Jack Seiler recently said he supported the idea of co-naming the street in question.

“I think it’s the right thing to do for two reasons. First it honors the legacy and good name of Dr. James Sistrunk and second it will increase the knowledge of Sistrunk Boulevard to the rest of Fort Lauderdale. I have spoken to folks from both Flagler Village and the Sistrunk community who support and are behind the idea to co-name the street. I feel very strongly to co-name Sixth Street to also Sistrunk Boulevard from Federal Highway, west. It’s time we move on. Fort Lauderdale is rich in its history of diversity and I’m happy to support the concept.”

Commissioner Dean Trantalis whose district includes the Victoria Park and Flagler Village released an official statement in which he expressed some reservations regarding the issue, on Oct. 8.  He praised Dr. Sistrunk as being a role model for the city’s Black community but stopped short of endorsing changing the street’s name.

“In our city, the African-American community identified Dr. James Sistrunk as one such role model, being a pioneer in health care and being of service to those especially in need. My predecessors recognized Dr. Sistrunk’s unique importance, and a section of a street was named after him in an area of the city whose residents are predominantly African-American.”

“This is a great tribute to a great human being.”

“Our statistics show that Sistrunk Boulevard is still riddled with crime, a consequence and a reputation that it has yet to shake. The residents of Flagler Village, many of whom are new to the area and are young professionals, don’t feel the connection with Sistrunk Boulevard even though it is the same.”

“Northeast Sixth Street that forms the spine of its own neighborhood. One would have hoped that the unprecedented growth in Flagler would have spilled over onto the Sistrunk area, but the hesitance of any serious investment to venture into the northwest just a few blocks away is, well, palpable”.

One business owner appears to be in complete agreement with maintaining the status quo and considers adding the name Sistrunk to her business address is a very bad idea.

April Dr. “Patty” Patterson owns Dr. Patty’s Dental Boutique, a dental office located in Victoria Park Shoppes. She voiced her displeasure toward the idea of changing the name on Northeast Sixth Street to include Sistrunk Boulevard, in a letter to the City of Fort Lauderdale Commission. An excerpt from her letter reads:

Dear City Commission, 

    Changing the name of Northeast Sixth Street to Sistrunk Boulevard is absurd and very scary.

    “I am a young, Black, female business owner and I’m scared to drive down Sistrunk. My business is located off of Federal/Sixth Street in the Victoria Park Shoppes and I live on the corner of Northeast Third Avenue and Fourth Street I do not want that Street name associated with my neighborhood or my business at this time.” 

    “As a resident and business owner in this neighborhood, I’ve worked hard to be a part of participating in the growth here so that Flagler Village and the Victoria Park Shoppes become recognized as a safe place. Believe me, it absolutely is NOT perfect. I’ve been robbed before and I have to call the non-emergency police multiple times a week because of drug deals/dealers, prostitutes, and home-less individuals soliciting and/or littering. “

    “This name change would be 10 Steps backward for us at this time. I can’t imagine telling someone that my Dental Spa is located off of Sistrunk and Federal. Totally unfair!!”

 

 

 

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    Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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