Hundreds of people, including a who’s who of elected Democratic officials, gathered in the parking lot outside the Greater Allen AME Church in Jamaica Saturday as the city renamed Merrick Boulevard for the Rev. Floyd Flake, the former congressman and longtime pastor of the Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral.
Flake, 75, his wife, the Rev. Elaine Flake, and their four children were honored in a ceremony that included Mayor de Blasio, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-Queens, Nassau), Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and New York State Attorney General Letitia James.
Hundreds of well-wishers from the Greater Allen congregation also were joined by members of the City Council and state Legislature from districts ranging from Southeast Queens to Westchester County and beyond.
And Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), one of the primary backers of the bill and emcee of Saturday’s celebration, said it was no ordinary street corner renaming.
“From Hillside Avenue to the Cross Island Parkway,” Miller said, a stretch of nearly 4.5 miles.
The mayor said Flake’s contributions and impact far exceeded his former congressional district.
“There are times when I can stand up and speak for an entire city of eight million people,” de Blasio said. “This is one of those times.”
Flake, a native of Los Angeles who grew up in Texas, was appointed as pastor of the church in 1976, when it had 1,400 members. Today it has over 23,000, and operates a school, builds senior and affordable housing and runs a food pantry and a host of other social programs.
Flake defeated incumbent Alton Waldron in a primary for the Democratic nomination to Congress from the old 6th District in 1986, and served in the House of Representatives from 1987 to 1997.
He is credited with crafting multiple pieces of legislation to encourage banks to lend money in underserved areas; and for bringing millions in federal spending to the district.
The celebration included song, dance and music from the GAC Praise Team and the Allen Liturgical Dance Ministry.
While Flake did not address the crowd, his four children, Nailah, Harold Hasan, Aliya and Robert Rasheed did.
“Too many people have to be buried before they are appreciated properly,” his daughter, Nailah, said. “This is just great. We’re happy that he is here to see it.