ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County legislators unveiled new, bipartisan legislation Thursday to rename the Greater Rochester International Airport after abolitionist Frederick Douglass and the motion to authorize the name change passed unanimously Thursday evening.
“In 1898, when the first statue was erected here, it was a way to welcome people into Rochester,” said Legislature Minority Leader Vincent R. Felder (D- Rochester). “Now we’re saying people who come into Rochester, who come by plane, the first name they will see now is Frederick Douglass. It is an honor to recommend that this name be changed in his honor.”
“His legacy of support and activism for marginalized populations, especially people of color and women, has lived and on and deserved to be recognized and elevated,” said County Legislator Karla F. Boyce (R- Mendon). “The name change represents to much of what our Monroe County community stands for currently and what we will continue to work for moving forward: A welcoming place for all those who are here.”
Earlier this month, local activist Richard Glaser created an online petition directed toward Monroe County Executive Adam Bello to change the name of the airport to “Frederick Douglass International Airport.” Bello himself said he was supportive of the idea two weeks ago.
Then, the total number of petition signatures was just below 1,500. The original plan was to aim for 200 signatures at first, and long term would work up to 2,000 signatures. Now, the petition has over 4,000 signatures and is growing. Glaser was on hand for Thursday’s announcement.
“We’re an experiment, we can always become better,” Glaser said. “But the only way we can do it is cooperating and collaborating and coming together as a community. I love this community, and I thank you for your support, and effort, and it is a community. I just launched the petition, but lets go forward and I can’t wait to hear that steward of stewardess say ‘We welcome you to Frederick Douglass International Airport in Rochester, New York.'”
In a statement, legislators Felder and Boyce said they “stand with the thousands of online petition signers and many more community members who have expressed their support.”
Douglass lived in Rochester for 25 years and was buried at the historic Mount Hope Cemetery in the city.
“Where there has been significant progress since FD has lived here in the 1800s there is still work to be done,” Boyce said. “This legislation serves as a promise that we are ready to do this, and work and continue to make meaningful progress.”
“To have the airport named after him says that this region, this county, we’re attaching ourselves to his name and his legacy,” Felder said.
Statement from Monroe County Executive Adam Bello:
“I appreciate that members of the Monroe County Legislature have joined me in support of renaming the Greater Rochester International Airport in honor of Frederick Douglass. In the weeks since first learning of this proposal, I have spoken with our federal representatives, members of our community and other interested stakeholders, and am grateful for all of their input and feedback. I look forward to working with the FAA to advance this initiative through the approval process in the weeks and months to come so that we can honor the life and legacy of Frederick Douglass in this way.”
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.