Cuthbert Harewood has a dream -- a dream that one day even the neighborhood of Liberty City, sweltering with the heat of violence and poverty, will be transformed into an oasis of peace and Pizza Huts.
But Harewood's grandiose vision has a simple beginning: renaming two blocks along NW 71st Street as Barack Obama Street.
"Maybe that would stop some of the shooting," he says of the name-change. "My whole goal is to uplift the neighborhood to where people in Liberty City feel good about themselves."
If Harewood gets his way, Barack Obama Street would stretch from 17th Avenue to 19th Avenue. But the Liberty City developer stresses that it's just one of many name-changes he has proposed to help revitalize his beleaguered community.
In fact, he even renamed himself.
Harewood has gone by the name "Broadway" ever since he successfully lobbied to have 18th Avenue display its original name between 62nd and 71st Streets. Now he wants the cross-streets to display their original, presidential names too, with Obama as a present-day exclamation point.
"Just imagine. Martin Luther King on one end and Obama on the other," he says. "Who can't get behind that?"
But Harewood has encountered more ambivalence than excitement. He says that his calls to District 2 County Commissioner Dorrin Rolle have largely gone unanswered, despite initial support for redubbing the nine streets.
Rolle is facing a stiff challenge from Jean Monestime in the runoff election for Board of County Commissioners. He did not return a request for comment.
"The street names should have been put on there since August," Harewood says. "But politicians lie."
Harewood is no stranger to controversy. The 48-year-old is currently fighting off a charge of stealing a golf cart in July. He says it's a mix-up that will soon be sorted out.
"The police got the wrong name, the wrong date of birth. And they put me in jail," he says. "It's going to be dismissed."
UPDATE: The charges against Harewood have since been dropped.
And although Harewood stands to make a lot of money if Liberty City gets the make-over he has prescribed -- he owns 10 businesses and 10 vacant lots in the nine block stretch -- he says his plan is ultimately not about him.
"Hopefully it will stop the crime," he says. "My whole thing is to get people to stop killing one another. Period."
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