Stuyvesant Square District street to be co-named after composer Harry T. Burleigh

A street by another: Peter Stuyvesant Park district is set to receive an updated epithet.

East 16 Street between Rutherford Pl. and Third Avenue, by Stuyvesant Square Park, will soon receive a new co-title next month after rising calls to substitute the current moniker due to the namesake’s bleak history.

Following civil rights activist movements decrying that Peter Stuyvesant was reportedly a slave owner centuries ago, the Parish of Calvary-St. George’s and Temple Emanu-El Calvary-St have announced that they have successfully sanctioned an update to alter the street originally named after the 1647 Dutch director general.

While the church says that Peter Stuyvesant’s name will remain on the Lower Manhattan street sign, it will soon be accompanied by prominent African-American composer and singer Harry T. Burleigh. Born in Pennsylvania, Burleigh is noteworthy for carving a renowned musical career despite the challenges of segregation and traveling to New York where he served as the choral director at St. George’s Church for 50 years. 

The renaming ceremony will take place on Sept. 12 at 3 p.m. on the corner of 16th Street and 3rd Avenue and has those involved excited with another step toward inclusivity.

“Harry T. Burleigh broke cultural, social, and religious barriers with the gift of music. Co-naming 16th Street after Burleigh, in the shadow of the statue of Peter Stuyvesant, reminds us of all the barriers we’ve broken as a city and how—like Burleigh, with songs on our lips—we will continue to face the barriers that still need to be removed.  This is a significant moment not only for our community but the entire city,” Rev. Jacob Smith, rector of Calvary-St. George, told amNewYork Metro.

Statue of Peter Stuyvesant. Photo by Dean Moses

Following the ceremony, refreshments will be served on Rutherford Place in front of the historic St. George’s Episcopal Church hosted by the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association before also providing a musical presentation celebrating Burleigh’s life inside the church itself. 

Council Member Carlina Rivera is also slated to attend the ceremony who told amNewYork Metro that it will be her honor to help christen the street with a new name.

“Harry T. Burleigh was many things: a singer, a composer, a choral director. Above all, he was a trailblazer, who refused to let racial prejudice stand in the way of his passion and talent for music, regardless of whether society at the time would acknowledge his name,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera, adding, “I am humbled to be joining the Parish of Calvary-St.George’s and Temple Emanu-El in finally giving his memory its long-deserved honor with the official renaming of this block of 16th Street to ‘Harry T. Burleigh Place,” Councilmember Rivera said.