The iconic Yawkey Way will no longer bear the name of former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey after the Boston Public Improvements Commission (PIC) voted unanimously to change the street name back to Jersey Street, on Thursday, April 26.
The decision came after an out-pouring of residents clashed on whether or not the City should change the name or not.
At previous public meetings held on March 29 that continued to April 12, those in favor of changing the name spoke of the racially biased past of the Red Sox, known for being the last Major League Baseball team to integrate.
Those against changing the name spoke of the powerful work that the Yawkey Way Foundation has done for many of the institutions and hospitals in the city.
The PIC Commission sets a very high bar as to the criteria to change a street name. It needs 100 percent of all adjacent abutters to sign the petition in favor of changing the name, which it received.
“Today’s vote is an important step in our ongoing effort to make Fenway Park a place where everyone feels welcome,” the Boston Red Sox said in a statement. “We recognize we have a long way to go, but remain committed to building a spirit of diversity, inclusivity, and openness within our front office and our ballpark.
The statement continues, “We look forward to working with business and civic leaders of Boston to continue to bring about social change in our community.”
Yawkey Way was changed from Jersey Street in 1977, after its namesake passed away. The original name lasted 80 year prior, predating Fenway Park back to the 19th century, when the Back Bay was filled in and converted from a marshland to an actual neighborhood.
The name stems from a pattern of naming cross streets in the Back Bay after British earls, the third-ranking noble title in the United Kingdom’s peerage system. Jersey is a small-self-governing island in the English Channel, about 12 miles off the coast of Normandy, France.
Although, Red Sox owner John Henry suggested last year he would have liked to see the name changed to David Ortiz, city rules prohibit the street from being named after a living person.
The idea to change it back to its original name started with a small group of residents who live on the street.
Charles Martel, a longtime Fenway resident, said it all started last September when he heard the Mayor was going to be attending a reception at the Verb Hotel on Boylston Street.
“I had an opportunity to talk to him and shared the story on how the neighborhood wanted to change the name back to Jersey Street after John Henry announced he wanted to change it,” said Martel. “[The Mayor] said, put together a petition and send to him, and so we did.”
Martel said he got about 40 to 50 people along Jersey Street to petition to turn the name back to Jersey Street.
Martel said he is not sure why John Henry decided it was time to change the name of the street, but he thought as abutters they would have some say over what the name will be changed to.
“Going back to the original name was something we thought everyone could agree upon,” said Martel. “Yawkey Way had become a political issue, and we thought if we just went back to Jersey Street it would calm things down.”
A lot of ideas swarmed when it was announced that the Red Sox wanted to change the name from former baseball players and more but, Martel said, people would have had an opinion on that too.
“We wanted something neutral that wouldn’t create controversy,” said Martel. “That was Jersey Street.”