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No change for Swastika, NY

Swastika, New York, will stay on the map.

The Black Brook Town Council on Monday, Sept. 14 unanimously decided to keep the name of one of the town’s hamlets, Swastika, instead of changing it to something else.

Discussion of the hamlet’s name came about after Michael Alcamo, a New York City resident who visits the area frequently, asked the town council to consider changing the name and surveying the residents of the hamlet on other potential names.

“Biking in the area, you see many beautiful, historic cemeteries, many with American flags marking the graves of Americans who fought and died fighting for liberty,” Alcamo wrote in an email to the newspaper. “Then, you come upon the town of Swastika, whose very name symbolizes the intolerance, hate and tyranny of the Nazi regime those brave Americans gave their lives to defeat. It doesn’t make sense. It dishonors their sacrifice. It is time to come up with another name for Swastika Road and the town [hamlet] of Swastika.”

This isn’t the first time elected officials in the Clinton County town of Black Brook have been asked to change Swastika’s name. Town Supervisor Jon Douglass told Alcamo in an email that he would put his request on the council’s agenda for Sept. 14.

During that meeting, some of the councilors appeared offended by the request and expressed staunch opposition to the proposal.

The Black Brook Town Council includes Howard Aubin, James Seguin, Ronald Wilkins and James Martineau, according to the town’s website.

“I’m dead-set against changing it,” Aubin said Sept. 14.

Aubin said the word swastika means “well-being.” Swastika does mean “well-being” in Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language. Aubin said “only an intolerant person” would assume the name is connected to the German Nazi Party and its leader, Adolf Hitler, whose aggression prompted World War II.

The hamlet’s name far predates World War II. According to a 1977 article in the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, the place was known as Goodrich Mills before a post office was established there in 1913. Edward C. Duprey, Swastika’s last postmaster before the office was closed and consolidated with Peasleeville’s post office in 1958, told the Press-Republican that the Swastika name was chosen from a list provided by the federal government in 1913.

“It had nothing to do with the community,” Duprey told the newspaper. “It was just a name for the post office.”

Douglass said people have requested the name be changed “several times throughout history.”

“Once was after World War II,” he said. “(Residents) adamantly opposed, and did not want to change the name. There’s a long history there. For the uneducated that immediately assume it’s connected to Germans and Hitler, it’s not. Swastika means ‘to prosper.'”

Aubin made a motion that the council wouldn’t “even consider changing the name.” That motion was adopted unanimously, thus rejecting Alcamo’s request.

“I was disappointed by the board’s decision,” Alcamo said. “The board had an opportunity to do something positive. Another option would have been to consider it for 90 days and ask the community, or ask state officials what they think.”