Subject: NYT: East Timor Group Files Suit over Refusal to Rename Street
Date: Sat, 22 May 1999 10:22:30 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Two notes: A shorter version of this article actually appeared in the printed version of the paper. This is from their web site. Second, ETAN does not support independence for East Timor, but self-determination for the East Timorese. It is up to them to freely decide their political status.

May 20, 1999

East Timor Group Files Suit over Refusal to Rename Street By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN

A New York group favoring independence for East Timor, the island annexed by Indonesia in 1976, has filed a Federal lawsuit against the city because it twice denied a request to rename temporarily a part of East 68th Street in Manhattan in support of the group's cause.

In the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Federal District Court in Manhattan, the East Timor Action Network contends that its free-speech rights were violated when the Department of Transportation rejected the group's request to rename East 68th Street near the Indonesian Consulate, between Fifth and Madison Avenues.

The city routinely allows private organizations and businesses to rename city streets temporarily to promote public, nonprofit and cultural events or to commemorate historically important events or people or to honor individuals or community groups. The sponsoring group must pay for the street signs.

In its first request last fall, the East Timor Action Network asked to install street signs reading "1991 Santa Cruz Massacre" at the northwest corner of 68th Street and Madison Avenue and at the southeast corner of 68th Street and Fifth Avenue.

The signs were intended to commemorate a 1991 incident in Dili, the capital of East Timor, in which, the group said, 270 people were killed. The request was denied by Robert Adamenko, the director of the Transportation Department's Office of Special Events.

In a letter, Adamenko cited department rules that prohibit streets from being renamed to promote products, commercial entities, political parties or political candidates. He cited the same rules in denying a second request, submitted in March, to rename the same corners "Free East Timor."

Those signs were requested to be in place for an event on July 17 marking the 23d anniversary of Indonesia's annexation of East Timor. Mark Patterson, a Transportation Department spokesman, said that Adamenko had reviewed the request and denied it. "They didn't fit our criteria," he said.

But the group said the city had previously permitted several streets to be renamed in support of political causes or to honor people in a manner that would send a clear political message. The examples cited by the East Timor Action Network in its lawsuits include Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's decision in 1996 supporting renaming the intersection of Lexington Avenue and East 38th Street, near the Cuban Mission to the United Nations, in honor of Brothers to the Rescue, the Cuban exile group that advocates the overthrow of Fidel Castro.

In 1989, Mayor Edward I. Koch temporarily renamed a corner outside the Chinese Consulate at 12th Avenue and 42d Street in honor of Tiananmen Square, to express support for the demonstration that shook Beijing. Other politically sensitive street renamings have included Joe Doherty Corner, established at Park Row and Pearl Street outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center to honor a member of the Irish Republican Army who was being held there while fighting extradition, and the dedication of a part of East 70th Street as United Jerusalem Place in support of Israeli sovereignty over that city.

In the lawsuit, the East Timor Action Network says it does not support any particular political party. A referendum is scheduled in East Timor for Aug. 8; citizens will vote on whether to accept a plan giving them autonomous status within Indonesia. The Indonesian President, B. J. Habibie, said that if they rejected the plan, East Timor would be free to become an independent nation.

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