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Union Street now Macedonia way

Toby Stavisky (l.-r.), Grace Meng, Sherrell Jordan with her 7-year-old daughter Michaiah Barret and Donald Wiggins from Councilman Peter Koo's office attend the ceremonial renaming of Union Street as Macedonia A.M.E. Church Way. Photo by Ken Maldonado
TimesLedger Newspapers

Ceremoniously renaming a street can be a long, bureaucratic process, but more than 200 years after Flushing’s Macedonia African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded, the institution’s name now adorns Union Street.

The church, at 37-22 Union St., celebrated its bicentennial last year with a number of different events, and on a bitter, cold Sunday afternoon community members braved the weather to witness the unveiling of the “Macedonia A.M.E. Church Way” street sign.

“It started about 2 1/2 years ago. We began to implement our plans to do this,” said Marion Brown, chairwoman of the church’s renaming committee. “You know how long New York City takes. We planned ahead.”

Brown said Feb. 12 was chosen for the unveiling because it was on that date in 1816 that Richard Allen founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.

In the past, individual Council members could request a street renaming, but the process is more lengthy now as requests are grouped and voted upon once every six months.

“I’m happy to offer this as a small token of appreciation from the city of New York to the Macedonia AME Church for its 200 years of service to the community,” Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), who could not attend the ceremony, said on the phone.

“As people look up at the sign, I hope it will be a reminder of the church’s dedication to the community, its spiritual guidance and its work at promoting neighborhood harmony,” he added.

Macedonia’s roots reach back to the 1800s, when it was built by freed slaves, native Americans and poor whites — and as Flushing has changed throughout the last two centuries, so has the church.

“Imagine what’s gone on here — the history it’s seen,” said state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), who pointed out that Macedonia was at one point a stop on the Underground Railroad. “It’s always been a welcoming church and opens its facilities to all groups.”

The church previously owned property in what is now the municipal parking lot until the city acquired it under eminent domain. Members of the church community said the street sign was a way to honor the past.

“I’m ecstatic. It’s great that we’re here to recognize what they’ve done over 200 years and to commemorate the struggles of the founders,” said Minister Sherrell Jordan, who leads the Sistas in the Hood ministry at the church on Wednesdays.

“I’m really grateful that this church is in our community,” said state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing). “It plays a big role here spiritually, mentally and economically.”

While the congregation is still primarily African American, Macedonia serves a large Hispanic and Asian community, particularly on Wednesdays, when the line for the church’s food pantry stretches around the block.

“As the community changes, we have to evolve. We have to change,” said Brown.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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