In most big cities, altering a street sign is not much cause for fanfare. But Fort Lauderdale’s decision to re-brand one particular street is being hailed by many in the city’s African-American community.
City commissioners decided Tuesday night that the name “Sistrunk Boulevard” will no longer stop near the railroad tracks, a segregation-era dividing line between the city’s black and white communities. Sistrunk will now appear along with Northeast Sixth Street on signs running through Flagler Village, a section quickly gentrifying into a predominantly white neighborhood.
The boulevard honors Dr. James Sistrunk, a black physician who helped establish the city’s first hospital for African-Americans in the late 1930s. It runs through the heart of Fort Lauderdale’s historically black community. The commission’s unanimous vote effectively ends years of emotional debate.
Sonya Burrows’ family has owned a business on Sistrunk for decades.
“If we did extend Sistrunk all the way to Federal Highway, it would at least capture the traffic going north and south through the county to help drive business and economic development to the area," said Burrows. "On so many levels, it’s just the right thing to do.”
But many Flagler Village residents have opposed a name change, citing concerns over the Sistrunk corridor’s reputation as a bad neighborhood.
In September, the Flagler Village civic association voted overwhelmingly against the co-naming, but reversed itself last month with a vote that favors the measure.