Jon Kest Remembered As Tireless Champion For Low-Wage Workers With Nevins Street Co-Naming


Jon Kest at work

Jon Kest, the founder of the Working Families Party and a community advocate who worked tirelessly for decades to improve the lives of low-wage workers throughout the city, was honored by Mayor Bill de Blasio last week, when the city’s leader signed legislation to co-name Nevins Street, between Livingston and Flatbush, for Jon. The new law co-names a total of 63 streets and public places for leaders who forever changed the city’s landscape for the better.

De Blasio said:

Today we pay tribute to 63 incredible individuals and groups that helped make our city—and this world—a stronger, safer place for all of us. From a lifeguard who saved six New Yorkers from the rising waters during Hurricane Sandy, to the valiant Tuskegee Airmen who never lost a bomber to enemy fire, to my dear friend Jon Kest, who inspired a generation of us to fight for real, progressive change—these individuals embody the perseverance and drive that make New Yorkers great.

The father to Jake and  Jessie Streich-Kest, and husband to neighbor Fran Streich, Jon was the executive director at New York Community for Change and the former director of New York ACORN. After his death in December 2012, Jon was remembered by countless individuals as someone who inspired real and lasting change throughout the five boroughs.

At the time of last week’s signing, Councilman Brad Lander said:

I’m so glad that we have voted to co-name Nevins Street, between Livingston and Flatbush, after the incomparable organizer and my dear friend Jon Kest.  Jon was taken from us far too young, but not before he had worked together with low income and disenfranchised New Yorkers to accomplish more for justice than most of us can ever dream of.  As a leader of Acorn, New York Communities for Change, and the Working Families Party, Jon helped New Yorkers come together, organize to build power, raise their voices, and win incredible victories for living wage jobs, for affordable housing, for good schools for all our kids, and for better neighborhoods for all New Yorkers, regardless of where they come from.  Jon has extraordinary living legacies as well, like the Fast Food Forward campaign and the campaign for worker safety and environmental justice in the carwash industry, which is fighting for justice on initiatives that he helped them get started, but this street—and I want to thank Council Member Levin, whose District it’s in—will serve as one more important reminder of his legacy.”

Councilman Stephen Levin said:

Jon Kest was a tireless advocate for workers, disadvantaged communities, and every New Yorker in need. His decades of activism laid the foundations of the progressive movement and made our city a better, fairer place to live. He is sorely missed, but his legacy should inspire all of us to continue the work he started.

Other honorees included the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill, who opened St. John Chrysostom School in the Bronx in 1914; Rabbi Weissmandl, an instrumental resistance fighter who saved European Jews during World War II; Stan Brooks, a senior correspondent for 1010 WINS; George Carlin, an award winning comedian and writer; and various Tuskegee Airmen, a predominantly African-American fighter squad in World War II.

We welcome you to share any memories and thoughts about Jon in the comments below.

Photo via New York Communities for Change

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