New York town board votes to keep town name Swastika

New York town board votes to keep town name Swastika
© CNN

A town in upstate New York voted to keep the name Swastika for one of the hamlet’s within the town’s jurisdiction, according to the town supervisor. 

Black Brook town supervisor Jon Douglass told NPR the hamlet was named for the Sanskrit word meaning well-being and predates World War II, when the word became an infamous symbol for the Nazi party. 

"Swastika was named by the founders of the area who settled there," Douglass told NPR

ADVERTISEMENT

The supervisor was reportedly at the town meeting when the name was voted upon, but didn’t have a vote. The town’s four councilors unanimously voted against changing the name at its meeting last week after five minutes of discussion, NPR reported. 

The discussion over changing the name was added to the town board’s agenda after a New York City resident who was visiting saw a street sign with the name “Swastika” during a trip last month. The resident, Michael Alcamo, reached out to officials and was directed to the town of Black Brook, NPR reported. 

Douglass similarly told CNN the town is keeping the name due to its roots of the Sanskrit meaning of the word. 

"We regret that individuals, for out of the area, that lack the knowledge of the history of our community become offended when they see the name," Douglass told CNN. "To the members of our community, that the board represents, it is the name that their ancestors chose."

The supervisor said the council did not see a reason to change its name despite the swastika’s widespread use as a symbol of hate and white supremacy. 

"I think that's probably, maybe some viewpoint that it's associated with hate. But then I believe there are others that do not associate it with hate," Douglass told NPR "Did the Hindus and the [Buddhists] and all them, did they erase it from their religious history because of the Germans?"

ADVERTISEMENT

The Anti-Defamation League lists the swastika as a general hate symbol and a Neo-Nazi symbol. 

The origins of the word comes from the Sanskrit “svastika” which means good fortune or well being, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. When Adolf Hitler designed the Nazi flag in 1920 he combined the swastika symbol with three colors of the German Imperial flag, according to the museum. 

Other neighborhoods have voted to change their name in the past due to association with the term co-opted by the Nazis. A neighborhood in Denver changed its name to Old Cherry Hills last year after it had been named Swastika Acres before the Nazi’s adopted the symbol, CNN reported.