Plan to rename school for 9/11 hero on hold

By Domenick Rafter Queens Chronicle

The Community Education Council in District 27 is opposing a Department of Education plan to rename MS 202 in Ozone Park after a Rockland County man who died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

The DOE has announced plans to rename Robert H. Goddard Junior High School after Wells [sic – Welles] Remy Crowther, a 24-year-old equities trader who worked for Sandler O’Neill & Partners in the World Trade Center. Crowther, who had ambitions to be a New York City firefighter, is believed to have saved at least a dozen lives in the South Tower before he was killed in its collapse.

Joshua Hirschman, president of District 27’s CEC, said the request to change the name came from the school community itself.

“They want to do it and they feel it represents them,” he said.

Hirschman said there had been strong opposition to the plan from the outside community who feels the name change would turn its back on decades of tradition.

The CEC had planned on taking up the issue last month, but Hirschman said it would be revisited.

“I asked the supporters to come to the meeting with parents and members of the school community,” he said.

CEC 27 had scheduled a vote opposing the renaming for Jan. 27. In the resolution that was scheduled to be voted on, the CEC noted the “extraordinary sacrifices” made by Crowther, but suggested it was not appropriate to rename the school after him because there was no direct connect between Crowther and the borough of Queens or the schools in the area. The CEC says it believes it would be more appropriate for a school in Nyack to be named for him.

Hirschman said that vote will now be tabled indefinitely.

The school building at 138-30 Lafayette St. is also home to a high school that also carries Robert Goddard’s name — Robert H. Goddard High School of Communication Arts and Technology — which opened in 2008.

Supporters of the name change have pointed out that Goddard also does not have any Queens ties. He was a Massachusetts-born scientist who is credited with building the world’s first liquid-fueled rocket.

“We don’t limit the names of our schools to just people who came from the area,” said a teacher at the school who did not want to be identified. “Mr. Crowther was a hero in one of our city’s worst days. That’s the connection.”

She also pointed out that renaming the middle school would differentiate it from the high school.

Several other schools in the area don the names of non-New Yorkers, including MS 226, named for astronaut and Indiana native Virgil Grissom who died in the Apollo 1 disaster, JHS 210, named for British-born Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in the United States to earn a medical degree, and Franklin K. Lane High School, named for President Franklin Roosevelt’s secretary of the interior, who was born in Canada and settled in California.

But supporters of keeping Goddard’s name note that the middle school existed and carried his name decades before the high school and suggested it should be the high school that changes its name.

Should the renaming go through, the school would not be the first in the area to be named for a 9/11 victim.

PS 65 is named the Raymond York School after a Howard Beach firefighter who died in the attacks. MS 137, just two blocks away from PS 65, is called America’s School of Heroes, partially in honor of those who died in the 9/11 attacks. Both schools opened less than a year after the tragedy.

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