Bichotte Ramps Up Pressure For Little Haiti Designation

Haitian Painting

Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte (D-Flatbush, Ditmas Park) is making inroads on her plan to designate a portion of Central Brooklyn as “Little Haiti.”

That after Bichotte recently succeeded in getting a section of Nostrand Avenue co-named for Toussaint L’Ouverture; and a section of Rogers Avenue co-named for Jean-Jacques Dessalines.

L’Ouverture was the best-known military and political leader of the Haitian Revolution, which culminated with Haiti gaining its independence in 1804 – as the first and only former slave state to do so, and the second country after the United States to gain their independence in the Western Hemisphere.

Dessalines was also a leading figure in the revolution and the country’s first ruler of an independent Haiti under the 1805 constitution.

Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte

““We need to know about Haiti‘s history and its strong contribution and strong impact on the world, such as Central and South America, Latin American and the Caribbean, and here in the United States,” said Bichotte, the first Haitian-American woman lawmaker in the city.

Bichotte’s push to name a portion of Flatbush Little Haiti has been controversial in that Flatbush boasts a large number of immigrants from all over the Caribbean, who rightfully could lay claim to their home country’s great world and city contributions. For example, the Trinidadians have been the driving force behind the annual West Indian Labor Day Parade – the largest parade in the city; and Jamaicans and Jamaican-Americans have been trailblazers in both world culture and local city politics.

The issue of Haitian exceptionalism within the context of both the Caribbean and the world came to a point last September, when part of Flatbush was designated Little Caribbean  and Bichotte said Little Haiti deserves a designation before a Little Caribbean designation in Flatbush.

“It doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive,” Bichotte argues. “First we can do a “Little Haiti and once we have established that model we can then apply a smiliar mode with Little Caribbean which is a greater undertaking.”

A Google screenshot map of the proposed Little Haiti designation in the Flatbush area.

Under Bichotte’s plan Little Haiti would start at Avenue H near Brooklyn College because the school has already incorporated the Haitian Studies Institute and then run north to Parkside Avenue, and the from East 16th Avenue on the west to Brooklyn Avenue on the East. The designation will also run from East 16th Street to Albany Avenue along Church Avenue.

Once Little Haiti is established, there can be a Little Caribbean designation that will include Little Haiti but stretch further – perhaps from Coney Island Avenue to Utica Avenue, and from Avenue K to Eastern Parkway, Bichotte said.

Bichotte argues that because the largest concentration of Haitian immigrants in the city live in Flatbush, they deserve the designation. Similarly there is a large concentration of Jamaicans in the Bronx so they should get the Little Jamaica designation, and in Queens where there is a large Guyanese immigrant population they should get a Little Guyanese  designation, Bichotte said. She said that she will be helping with Little Pakistan by Coney Island Avenue as well as work with West Indian Day Carnival Association to reclaim  street signs  across Eastern Parkway to be Caribbean Parkway / West Indian Parkway.

“Starting here we can continue reclaiming our neighborhoods throughout New York City,” said Bichotte, noting that Manhattan’s Little Italy remains a popular tourist destination despite the fact that Italians have for the most part left the Lower Manhattan neighborhood generations ago.

People can come to Little Haiti for the great food and culture and arts, and HABNET (Haitian-American Business Network) is already involved, said Bichotte.

Bichotte said she has already given a presentation to Community Board 17 about her plan and it was well received. Also on board and supportive are local City Council Member and Lt. Governor candidate Jumaane WilliamsState Sen. Kevin Parker, Assemblymembers Diana Richardson and Nick Perry, Public Advocate Letitia James, Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s office, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, City Council Majority Whip Laurie CumboCity Council Speaker Corey Johnson and others, Bichotte said.

The kickoff for all this will occur on Little Haiti in Brooklyn weekend, which will start on Haitain Flag Day, Friday May  18, when both streets will get their co-naming. Then throughout the weekend there will  be an array of Haitian arts, food, educational and cultural activities throughout Flatbush. For more information contact Bichotte’s office at 718-940-0428.