On Sunday, Miriam Friedlander got her way. Local political activists and family members gathered on East 6th Street to co-name the southeast corner at East 2nd Street for the longtime Lower East Side City Council member, who died in 2009.
Friedlander, the outspoken leftist firebrand, was remembered as a determined and tireless fighter for the rights of women, gays, the homeless and low income tenants. Many local office holders, including U.S. Representatives Nydia Velazquez and Carolyn Maloney, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Assembly member Deborah Glick and former State Senator Tom Duane came out for the ceremonial event. It was organized by Rosie Mendez, who now represents a portion of Friedlander’s downtown district.
Friedlander served District 2 in the City Council from 1974-1991. Among the men she vanquished to take and hold her seat: Sheldon Silver, who later went on to become State Assembly Speaker. After redistricting in 1991, Friedlander was defeated by Antonio Pagan. But Margarita Lopez and then Rosie Mendez, both inspired by Friedlander’s brand of activism, eventually prevailed and followed in her footsteps at City Hall.
Friedlander was well known for her public clashes with Mayor Ed Koch. At the time of her death, he told the New York Times that his old nemesis was “misguided in her political judgments,” but he said he “admired her intensity in getting things done for her community” and he believed “there’s a place for her in heaven.” On Sunday, Mendez said she’s sure Friedlander is in heaven but, jokingly, she wondered whether Friedlander had run into the former mayor.
More than one speaker on Sunday said they hope “Miriam Friedlander Way” will inspire a new generation to fight for the soul of the neighborhood, just as Friedlander did through the 1970’s and 1980’s. One local activist, Michael Farrin, noted that Mendez’s City Council seat will be up for grabs three years from now. He said everyone who embraces Friedlander’s ideals should dedicate themselves to making sure District 2 stays in progressive hands.