The corner of 67th Avenue and 192nd Street in Fresh Meadows, Queens will be co-named in honor of the late Sylvia Weprin, the matriarch of a political family that includes incumbent state Assemblymember David Weprin and the pol’s two predecessors in the seat: his brother Mark and father Saul.
The Weprins lived in an apartment at the intersection for about 30 years. This corner is among 129 co-namings that were recently approved by City Council.
Sylvia Weprin, the mother of David and Mark and husband of Saul, died last October at the age of 92, and was remembered as the rock of one of Queens’ most prominent political families.
“It’s a great honor to have a street named after her,” David Weprin said in an interview. “Street namings are symbolic, but they’re important. It’s like people look at street names, they ask questions about who was that person, why do they have a street for them?”
Sylvia was born in Cuba in 1930 and arrived in the United States at the age of 8, speaking no English. A fourth grade teacher who helped her learn English inspired her to become a teacher herself, her sons said at her funeral. For three decades, she taught biology at Jamaica High School in English and Spanish before retiring in 1991, to join her husband Saul in Albany upon his ascension to Assembly speaker.
Saul’s untimely death from a stroke in 1994, aged 66, was of course not the end of the Weprin legacy in Queens: both Mark and David have served in his seat in the intervening 29 years. Both also served on the City Council. David has twice run unsuccessfully for Comptroller and once for Congress, and remains in the Assembly; Mark is now a lobbyist for energy conglomerate Invenergy.
Following Saul’s death, Sylvia became more active in civic life: she joined Queens Community Board 8 and served on the boards of numerous organizations, such as the Queens Botanical Garden and the Queens Symphony Orchestra.
The co-naming was sponsored by area Councilmember Linda Lee; David Weprin said Lee reached out to ask if the family was interested in the co-naming, to which they agreed.
Sylvia Weprin is, of course, far from the first relative of an incumbent pol to be honored in such a way. She’s not even the first Weprin: in 1995, two miles of 188th Street, between Hillside Avenue and the Long Island Expressway, were co-named Saul Weprin Street.
Last year, the Council’s co-namings included Marie Bichotte, the mother of Brooklyn Democratic boss and Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, and Dr. Robert Cornegy Sr., the father of then-Councilmember Robert Cornegy Jr.
Examples from past years include Lena Cymbrowitz, who died while serving in the Assembly in 2003 and was succeeded by her husband — ex-Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz, who lost reelection last year. Longtime Williamsburg Assemblymember Joe Lentol was still in office when a corner in the ‘Burg was co-named for his father Edward, who himself served in the Assembly, Senate, and as a judge.
And perhaps the most notable example was when former Gov. Andrew Cuomo named the newly rebuilt Tappan Zee Bridge for his late father, and former governor, Mario Cuomo.
Last week’s co-naming vote was the subject of a rare moment of discord in the Council over the typically rubber-stamped nature of the legislation. That was due to the decision to co-name West 127th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem as “The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad Way,” after the controversial former leader of the Nation of Islam, a move denounced by a peppering of councilmembers.
Malcolm X was a disciple of Muhammad until the famed civil rights activist left the Nation in 1964, amid a public rift with the leader. Malcolm X accused Muhammad of being a pedophile and of trying to have him killed; when Malcolm was assassinated the following year, most likely by members of the Nation’s Newark mosque, Muhammad denied all responsibility but said that Malcolm “got just what he preached.”