It’s never too late to give an anti-Semite a kick in the pants, a couple of Brooklyn politicians figure.
Nearly 110 years after industrialist Austin Corbin died, State Sen. Carl Kruger wants to rename a heavily Jewish Manhattan Beach street that honors Corbin’s memory and Councilman Mike Nelson is considering a bill that would do so.
Corbin, who built the Long Island Rail Road and some waterfront hotels in Brooklyn, openly derided Jews as “a detestable and vulgar people” in an interview with the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1879, and was reportedly president of the American Society for the Suppression of the Jews. Daily News columnist Denis Hamill recently visited Corbin Place and found that residents knew little of Corbin. He printed some of the tycoon’s rhetorical nuggets in Sunday’s paper including his call to “remand the Jews to the condition that they were in the Middle Ages, or to exterminate them utterly.”
The newsman read about Corbin last year in a book about Brooklyn street names by Leonard Bernardo and Jennifer Weiss. Later, in researching a historical novel he’s writing, Hamill scanned old issues of the Daily Eagle and was shocked by the extent of Corbin’s hate.
“He was a pig of a man,” Hamill said in an interview Tuesday.
The irony, he notes, is that Corbin Place intersects with Babi Yar Square, which memorializes more than 33,000 Jews slaughtered by the Nazis near Kiev. “This guy doesn’t deserve to share the same lamppost with those people,” said Hamill.
It is also a block from Holocaust Memorial Mall in a neighborhood with hundreds of survivors.
The name change would require the support of Community Board 15 as well as a majority of the City Council.
Nelson, who represents Manhattan Beach in the Council, said he has long heard rumors that Corbin was anti-Semitic but was shocked by the quotes uncovered by Hamill. “His rhetoric is unacceptable,” he said.Nelson recently sent out a mailing to residents of Corbin Place — many of them Jewish, he said — for feedback. Kruger also said he had heard Corbin didn’t like Jews, but “when I read Hamill’s column it was like a lightning bolt in my head.”
He says changing the name would send a message. “This has something to do with Austin Corbin but more to do with the anti-Semitism in the streets and neighborhoods around the world,” he said. “We cannot be silent.”