The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) on Thursday formally renamed the Newkirk Avenue subway station in Flatbush, Brooklyn, serving customers on the 2 and 5 lines, to its new name as Newkirk Avenue-Little Haiti.
The MTA said the name change reflects the station’s location in a section of Flatbush, which is home to New York City’s thriving Haitian-American community.
The proposal to rename the station is a result of legislation included in the 2021-2022 FY Enacted New York State Budget sponsored by Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte-Hermelyn, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, and State Sen. Kevin Parker, who both represent the neighborhood in Brooklyn.
The MTA said the Legislature provided funding for the costs of new signage, alterations to maps in the station and on subway cars to reflect the name change, as well as to update the audio systems on platforms and in trains.
“The renaming is one element in a broader civic project known as the Little Haiti Brooklyn initiative that aims to honor the neighborhood’s unique Haitian roots while also bolstering economic development in the area,” said the MTA in a statement.
“I’m thrilled to recognize the significant impact of Brooklyn’s Haitian-American community with the renaming of this station,” said MTA Acting Chair and Chief Executive Officer Janno Lieber. “As a longtime Brooklynite, I am keenly aware of the significance that this neighborhood plays as a center of Haitian-American life and culture. This is an exciting day for the entire borough and for Haitian-Americans across the city.”
“Having grown up in Canarsie, I’ve always understood that each and every local subway station is ingrained in the fabric of its neighborhood,” said New York City Transit Interim President Craig Cipriano. “With new signs, new maps, and updated audio announcements, it will be crystal clear to all who pass through here that this station is in Little Haiti.”
MTA Chief Customer Officer Sarah Meyer said: “Today is about so much more than just renaming a station.
“It’s about publicly recognizing the significance of an entire community that brings so much to this city,” she said. “Diverse, vibrant neighborhoods like Little Haiti are what make New York City so special and today is truly a momentous occasion.”
The dedication of the new station name on Nov. 18 comes on the same day as the Haitian celebration of the Battle of Vertières in 1803.
The Battle of Vertières was the last major battle of the Haitian Revolution and the final part under the leadership of Haitian revolutionary leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines.
It was fought on Nov. 18, 1803, between Haiti’s army and Napoleon’s French expeditionary forces who were committed to regaining control of the island.
“This subway renaming is not just timely but symbolic of our blossoming diverse community, and I am tremendously proud to represent my Brooklynites at this unveiling,” said Congress Member Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn that encompasses the neighborhood where the subway station is located.
“We are one of the most diverse communities in America with residents who have settled here from across the country and around the world,” she added. “A district that has a robust Caribbean Diaspora representing every island nation touched by the Caribbean Sea is certainly worthy of this distinct honor. They have immensely contributed to the growth and development of Brooklyn and our nation.
“From the arts to their great music and cuisine, Haitian Americans have shaped us with their unique culture and make us who we are as Brooklynites and Americans,” Clarke continued. “That is evident in every segment of our society. I am deeply honored to join my Haitian community in applauding my state legislators and colleagues for this special and timely recognition.”
Brooklyn Borough President and Mayor-Elect Eric Adams said: “Flatbush has long been a major hub of the Haitian Diaspora, which has given the neighborhood its unique and enduring character.
“Today’s renaming of the Newkirk Avenue subway station recognizes the social, cultural, economic and civic contributions of ‘Little Haiti’ to our borough and city at large,” he said. “I thank Assembly Member Bichotte Hermelyn and State Senator Parker for their advocacy on this rightful designation.”
“We are making history and fighting wrongs,” said Parker, who represents the 21st Senate District in Brooklyn. “The Haitian people have a distinguished and proud history. This station renaming is a token that acknowledges that history both in Haiti and here in Brooklyn.
“I’m honored to partner with Assembly Member Bichotte Hermelyn to bestow to this symbol of one of the important traditions of our community,” he added.
Bichotte Hermelyn, chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn, said: “Haitians fought tirelessly for their freedom at the Battle of Vertières, a victory that ultimately led Haiti to become the world’s first free Black republic, and influenced a domino-effect across the Caribbean and beyond.
“Today we celebrate that history in the heart of Brooklyn, where many cultures blend together to uplift one another,” she said. “More than two centuries after that historic battle, we are proud to rename the Newkirk Avenue train station ‘Newkirk Avenue-Little Haiti,’ so that people from all backgrounds and walks of life can share in our culture and history.
“Too many historical markers depict a tale of an America many of us do not want to relive,” she added. “So, this is a victory for every American who believes in freedom. I thank the Speaker, the Majority Leader, the MTA and my colleague Sen. Kevin Parker, who carried this bill with me.”
New York City Council Member Farah N. Louis, another daughter of Haitian immigrants, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn, noted that Brooklyn is “home to intergenerational families who risked everything to pursue the American Dream.
“Today, their cultural and economic contributions to this city are undeniable,” she said. “As the daughter of Haitian immigrants, I am proud to represent Council District 45, which has become a hub for art, music and food.
“When commuters arrive at the Newkirk Avenue-Little Haiti subway stop, they will recognize the thriving Haitian and Caribbean communities that exist in Flatbush, making it more than a neighborhood but a destination that will help attract residents and tourists to shop local and support immigrant-owned businesses,” Louis added.
The MTA said organizations that participated in the celebration and provided informational resources included Haitian American Caucus, Haitian Community Coalition, Haitian Americans United for Progress, Haitian Studies Institute at CUNY, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Society for Haitian Research, Life of Hope, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, Haitian American Alliance of New York and Diaspora Community Services.
The renamed station is located within the Little Haiti Business and Cultural District, an area designated in a resolution passed by the New York City Council in 2018 that encompasses Avenue H, Brooklyn Avenue, Parkside Avenue and East 16th Street, the MTA said.
According to the most recent US Census data, Haitians are the largest immigrant group in Flatbush and make up more than 20 percent of the neighborhood’s foreign-born population.
Migration Policy Institute, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., said Brooklyn has more than 90,000 Haitian-Americans — the third highest concentration in the United States.
About 190,718 Haitians live in New York State, with 156,000 living in New York City, according to the American Community Survey.