ATLANTA — Some residents of a northwest Atlanta neighborhood want the city to consider renaming a new park that hasn’t opened yet.
The park under construction in the English Avenue / Vine City community is due to become a transformative centerpiece for an area that has struggled for decades.
It’s named for Rodney Cook, Sr., an Atlanta politician who helped ease civil rights tensions in the 1960s. Among other things, he was one of the few white Georgia lawmakers who voted to seat the newly elected Julian Bond to the House of Representatives in 1966.
"Rodney Cook Sr., the man, everyone can agree, was a phenomenal person. He did everything [they say] he did," said Colette Haywood, a Vine City activist who said she has researched the area's history.
However, Colette Haywood said the city named the 22-acre park on Joseph Boone Avenue with no input from the surrounding community.
"A lot of people I’ve heard [say], it was the process. We didn’t have input in the actual name," Haywood said.
Originally, the city had planned to name the park after Cook’s grandfather. Livingston Mims was an Atlanta mayor. He was also a Confederate soldier.
The city decided to sidestep Mims, and the city council voted to name the park for Cook, whose family had donated substantially to the project.
Former Mayor Andrew Young told the city council this week that Cook is a worthy namesake for the new park.
"His home was the victim of a cross burning," Young told council members. "Being a city too busy to hate works both way. My opponent when I ran for Congress in 1972 was Rodney Cook. We ended up better friends after than we had been before."
Haywood said Cook's name would have to remain part of the debate.
"How do they know we wouldn’t agree to name it Rodney Cook? Like, you don’t know. But there has never been a full on discussion of those various issues," she said Friday.
Meantime, some other names have also emerged.
"Why is the park not named after [former Atlanta mayor] Maynard Jackson? He was larger than life. He lived in the community. Everybody loved him," Vine City activist and Neighborhood Planning Unit L president Jennifer McIntosh, reading from notes she took during interviews with residents, told the city council. "There are so many people other than Mr. Cook".