Bad trip for ‘Hendrix Way’; Co-naming experience fizzles

Richard Geist, left, and Storm Ritter, seen above back in late 2017, led a campaign to co-name W. Eighth St. Jimi Hendrix Way. But despite an online petition that keeps gaining supporters to this day, the effort appears stalled. Photo by Rebecca Fiore

BY RICO BURNEY | Back in November 2017, The Villager reported on a widely circulated online petition to co-name W. Eighth St. between Fifth and Sixth Aves “Jimi Hendrix Way.” A little more than one year and 20,000 signatures later, the effort looks to have stalled like “crosstown traffic.”

Despite the large outpouring of support, which includes more than 4,000 New York City residents, the co-naming campaign currently appears to have virtually no one pushing for it on the block where guitar great Hendrix established the Electric Lady recording studio and lived for a brief period toward the end of his life.

This is largely the result of two of the petition’s most vocal supporters, business owners Richard Geist of Uncle Sam’s Army Navy Outfitters and Storm Ritter of Storm Ritter Studios, both closing their W. Eighth St. stores late last year.

Jimi Hendrix created Electric Lady Studios on Eighth St. and it continues in operation today as a much-in-demand recording studio for top musicians. Hendrix also briefly lived on Eighth St.

With Geist and Ritter gone and no other business owners or community members taking up the cause since then, the effort seems to have lost the leadership needed to turn the idea into a reality. However, Geist did suggest in one interview that the campaign struggled even when he and Ritter were leading the charge.

In fact, according to Jeremiah Moss’s Vanishing New York blog, the tepid response from other businesses on the block and the Village Alliance — the local business improvement district that never took a stance on the idea — was one of the reasons why he decided to leave W. Eighth St.

“[The Village Alliance] told me, ‘What did Jimi Hendrix ever do for Eighth St.?’” Geist said in an interview with Moss just before closing the store in December.

Anecdotal reports said some frowned on co-naming the street after Hendrix because, along with his incredible music, he is also heavily associated with the 1960s-era “drug culture.”

Other local stakeholders were very circumspect about their thoughts on the co-naming proposal, creating a “purple haze” of confusion about where they stood on the issue.

The petition effort’s future looks even dimmer considering that Community Board 2 generally does not recommend approval for most street co-naming applications.

Specifically, the board’s guidelines state that those honored with a street co-naming should have “a longstanding direct presence and relationship with the community (preferably at least 10 years of community involvement) in the vicinity of the proposed co-naming,” and that the board typically denies street co-namings for entertainers who are mainly known for their work outside of the board’s district.

These are merely guidelines, though, not rules. Therefore, C.B. 2 could still recommend that the area’s city councilmember, Corey Johnson, introduce legislation to co-name the block for the “Foxy Lady” singer if there is enough local support. But that support appears to be lacking at this time.

Nevertheless, not all advocates for the effort are experiencing “maniac depression” over the current situation. One early supporter wrote in an e-mail that they will not give up because Hendrix “deserves a street in the Village.” And with the petition gaining additional signatures every week, the number of people who agree continues to grow.

Geist and Ritter could not immediately be reached for comment.