Red Hook Renames Street, Brooklyn Paper Invents Controversy

06/21/2011 8:57 AM |

Heroes or traitors? The Brooklyn Paper thinks you should decide.
  • Heroes or traitors? The Brooklyn Paper thinks you should decide.

If you’re a journalist looking for a good story, “Street Renamed for Firefighters!” ain’t it. Rather than let the non-story go, though, the Brooklyn Paper decided to transform the non-contentious renaming of a street in Red Hook into a pseudo-controversy. A portion of Richards Street, in Red Hook, was renamed “Seven in Heaven Way” over the weekend, to honor seven firefighters from the fire house there who died on September 11th while “pulling victims from burning rubble,” the Paper reports. It didn’t find anyone in Red Hook who was offended by such a ceremony—in fact, the community board unanimously supported the name change—but an easily placed phone call to American Atheists got the paper an opposing point of view, some juicy quotes—”it’s improper for the city to endorse the view that heaven exists”—and an exploitative and pointless story.

Worse is a man from NYC Athetists—who makes the story, in the Brooklyn Paper‘s estimation, “local,” though the group is based in Manhattan—who argues the sign is presumptive. “You’re assuming they even believed in heaven.” (This is then an actual line from the story: “It is unclear whether the firemen were all were religious, although most either attended Catholic school or had weddings at churches.”) The man from NYC Atheists adds that this “crosses the line,” but actually the opposite is true. If the group were serious about religion encroaching on civil rights and secular society, it sure picked the least offensive example about which to get upset.

Furthermore, the Brooklyn Paper‘s job is to report the news, not create it.

3 Comment

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  • How would you feel, Henry, if it said “Seven with Allah” or something similar. Sadly, you miss the point. The gov’t should not be involved in promoting religion. Heaven is a religious belief. For those who don’t believe in imaginary places created by any religion, this is a small but hurtful reminder that we are stuck living in a world where some people act as if imaginary creations are real. Whether they are or not, our Constitution should prevail. Why do religious people need to confirm their beliefs all the time, anyway? Doesn’t their god know what they’re thinking?

  • As an atheist Canadian, I don’t mind that the idea of Heaven gives some people comfort, comfort being in short supply for believers and non-believers alike. I appreciate the need for protections against the tyranny of the majority, but I’ve always thought the absolute binary of Church/State in American life has pushed both sides to the persecuted fringes, and has resulted in the worst kind of political mummery around the question of God/religion in any given candidate’s life.