After more than a year of severe opposition from the Corpus Cristi church, the plan to co-name a portion of Manhattan’s W. 121st Street after the late, great George Carlin was approved by a community board this week. New York comedian Kevin Bartini, the man behind the movement to honor the legendary comedian and author, began spearheading the campaign in May 2011, collecting signatures online and in person and making his voice heard during multiple public hearings.
The original proposal called for co-naming the 500 block of W. 121st St. where Carlin grew up and first developed his sense of humor and point of view. The church shares the same block and opposed the plan with its few supporters but large political influence. And as you know Carlin was a longtime critic of the Catholic Church (not to mention any sort of organized religion). A compromise to co-name the 400 block was voted 25 in favor and four against, with four abstaining.
And although the original plan was scrapped, this new compromise is still a huge victory, as it will honor the legacy of Carlin, the most famous figure to come out of the Morningside Heights neighborhood. Bartini made an impassioned speech at the board meeting, reminding them of Carlin’s credentials as well as his love for his old neighborhood. “Carlin loved this area so much,” Bartini said, “That when he had to move to Los Angeles, he brought with him an audio recording of the ambient sounds of 121st street he’d listen to as he fell asleep.”
Carlin’s only offspring, daughter Kelly Carlin, a writer and speaker, echoed that sentiment today. “His neighborhood was really, really important to him,” Kelly tells Laughspin. “And the city of New York was really important to him. So, I think he’d be really touched and honored by this— especially since it was a comedian who has gone through all this trouble to make it happen.”
On his classic 1973 album Occupation Foole, Carlin, who died in 2008, speaks at length about Morningside Heights, or as he and his friends used to call it– “White Harlem.” In fact, the comedian had an entire bit about his hometown, which you can listen to below.
The measure will now move on to a collective omnibus bill with other co-naming proposals that will be voted on by the City Council in the Spring. Unless something drastic occurs, the proposal is expected to easily pass. Then we can all start fighting on Craigslist over available apartments on George Carlin Way.
“I think my dad would have two minds about it,” Kelly says. “My dad didn’t take these kinds of things seriously and yet at the same time he did. He was kind of an interesting, complicated man in that way. He always felt like kind of the outsider. He rejected institutions his whole life and yet there was part of him that always wanted to be accepted.”
“The last two years he was alive, especially, I think he got that he had some pretty intense influence on our culture,” Kelly continues. “He knew about his impact on people and comedians. I think he’d get it.”
additional reporting by Dylan Gadino