Is West Hempstead Next?

The name of a civic leader was removed from a street last week in Malverne, after a report by school students revealed that Paul Lindner was a Klan leader whose local chapter twice burned an African American orphanage and kidnapped a Jewish business owner in the 1920s.

“It’s been a long time coming, but change has landed on the doorsteps of Malverne,” said Dr. Lorna Lewis, the Superintendent of Malverne Public Schools. “I look forward to hanging the Lindner Place sign in our library to remind our students of a time when little acorns became mighty oaks.”

Lewis was quoting the motto of the suburban village, “From Acorns to Oaks,” speaking of the students as leaders who took the initiative to research the life of the village’s founder and make the case for renaming the five-block street.

“I don’t think there is any doubt that the name should be changed because it goes with the village motto,” said Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett. “Our little acorns are right across the street in Downing School.”

Fitting with this theme, Lindner Place is now Acorn Way, and the elementary school itself serves as a precedent, having carried Lindner’s name before being renamed in the 1980s for a local principal. Putting the change in context, a historical sign outside of the Malverne Public Library explains the name change from Lindner to Acorn.

With the name removed in Malverne, there is the matter of another Lindner Place – in West Hempstead, a single block with ten houses on it. The Klan’s history of cross-burnings and lynchings is a matter of common knowledge, but for the West Hempstead Jewish community, the men in white hoods also have a documented history of anti-Semitism.

Its heyday in the 1920s took place during a rise in xenophobia, when Congress enacted strict immigration quotas designed to reduce Jewish immigration. Its popularity in northern states was a blend of anti-immigrant sentiment, and opposition to the Great Migration, when many southern Blacks moved north in search of work and better living conditions. The “invisible empire” also opposed Catholic immigration, locally rallying against Geoffrey J. O’Flynn, who was elected as President of Malverne in 1922. Two years later, he was defeated in a tie vote that was settled by the village’s board of trustees. In celebration, Lindner led a cross-burning at the Malverne station, and another one at his farm in West Hempstead.

In July of that year, Lindner’s Klan chapter led a march in Freeport to intimidate Jewish drug store owner Ernest J. Louis. The pharmacist was accused of improperly touching a 13-year-old girl in his store, but no charges were filed. Louis refused to leave town and in August he was kidnapped. With the Leo Frank lynching in the public consciousness, the kidnapping of Louis was reported in The New York Times, among other prominent newspapers. Locally, support for the Klan was evident in Freeport’s school district accepting a donated flag from the Klan, and Louis’ expulsion from the Freeport Fire Department. At the time, five of the village’s trustees openly identified themselves as Klan members.

The campaign of intimidation was too much for Louis, who announced his departure from Freeport in September of that year.

In his role as the Exalted Cyclops of statewide Klan, Lindner organized a march in Freeport with nearly 2,000 participants who marched in white robes, but unmasked, in front of cheering spectators. He died in Smithtown in 1962.

Lindner’s legacy is the village of Malverne, and its early years of discriminating against Jews, Blacks, and Roman Catholics. Three years after his death, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a rally outside Malverne High School, calling for an end to segregation in the school.

Concerning the single-block Lindner Place in West Hempstead, which has ten homes on it, I researched whether the namesake is the same as the one in Malverne, or a family member. A map from 1899 identifies the site of this street as the farm of Henry Lindner, Paul’s older brother.

The irony of this street is that, in 1951, Henry’s widow Anna sold the farm to a Jewish developer, Saul Sokolov. As he laid out roads on the farm, he honored its former owner with Lindner Place, and a block away from it is Junard Boulevard, named for Sokolov’s firm, Junard Construction Corporation. I reached out to Hempstead Town Supervisor Donald Clavin and Councilman Tom Muscarella, who did not have a statement on the Lindner Place of West Hempstead. I could not find any information on whether Henry was a Klansman like his brother, and perhaps the sizable Jewish presence on his namesake street is as good a repudiation of that hate group as the street renaming in neighboring Malverne.

 By Sergey Kadinsky