Cultural advocate LeRoy McCarthy has been very successful in his efforts to get the city to recognize hip-hop culture and legendary musicians with tributes and street signs. Notorious B.I.G., Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest, Sylvia Robinson and the Wu-Tang Clan have all gotten streets renamed in their honor thanks to him. His latest project: trying to have a portion of Babylon Turnpike on Long Island turned into Public Enemy Turnpike.
"Hip-hop has changed many lives, and it is great that Long Island will have the opportunity to honor a significant group who are very influential worldwide," he told Gothamist. "With the success of Public Enemy Turnpike, hip hop will be on the map in Long Island."
Public Enemy formed on Long Island in the mid-1980s after Carlton Ridenhour (Chuck D) and William Drayton (Flavor Flav) met earlier in the decade at Adelphi University. They released their landmark second album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, in 1988, recording the album at various NYC studios. The group was inducted in to the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 2013, and into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2018.
"I grew up in Roosevelt on Long Island, and I went to high school not too far from here," Chuck D said last year. "My track team had to run around Eisenhower Park two times and practice. I went to Adelphi University and I graduated in 1984. I have Long Island all in my bones."
The portion of the Babylon Turnpike that is in question comes between the towns of Roosevelt and Freeport in Nassau County. Paperwork is being submitted to Legislator Kevan Abrahams and Nassau County District 1 for approval next week, and McCarthy says he's received positive feedback for it so far.
In December, the City Council voted 48-0 to approve two of his proposals: the stretch of St. James Place between Gates Avenue and Fulton Street was renamed "Christopher Wallace Way" in honor of Notorious B.I.G., and the southeast of Vanderbilt Avenue and Targee Street in the Park Hill section of Staten Island was renamed Wu-Tang Clan District. Prior to that, he helped get a street in Queens co-named for Malik "Phife Dawg" Taylor Way, and got a street co-named for Sylvia Robinson in Englewood, NJ.
He also put up a spray chalk tribute at the Franklin Avenue stop to Aretha Franklin, and was able to convince the MTA to place more permanent "Respect" memorials in the station.
Fyi: Along with honoring Biggie with a street co-name in Brooklyn #ChristopherWallaceWay via @cmlauriecumbo. The application for #WutangclanDistrict was submitted on Friday by the office of @cmdebirose office. Let Hip Hop @NYCCouncil @NYCSpeakerCoJo @BLACaucusNYC @NYCProgressives pic.twitter.com/CNDMeht2Ln
— Chris Wallace Way BK (@CWWayBK) November 19, 2018
Another major hip-hop landmark McCarthy has been fighting to create for several years now: honoring the Beastie Boys with a street sign in the Lower East Side. Unfortunately, it's been rejected several times by CB3, though McCarthy is still hopeful it will happen at some point. "The Beastie Boys Square street co-name has been very political for very bizarre reasons, hopefully it will move forward in 2020," he said. (He's also trying to get Tupac Shakur Place street name in Oakland.)
McCarthy, who previously worked in the music industry for Bad Boy and other labels in the '90s, now works in film & TV production as a locations manager. In addition to the street signage, he's also trying to get The United States Conference Of Mayors to declare two resolutions in August: Hip Hop Recognition Month, and August 11th: Hip Hop Celebration Day. Philadelphia previously recognized the day with a proclamation—McCarthy chose that date because it historically is recognized as the birth of the hip-hop movement when Kool Herc threw a party on Sedgwick Avenue in The Bronx.
Damn, the history of hip-hop interactive mixing Google Doodle today is amazing! https://t.co/oN6yZwklZw
— Chris Heilmann (@codepo8) August 11, 2017