Melville Road Named for KKK Member Eyed for Renaming

melville road
Ruland Road street sign
Photo by Ed Shin

Melville Road Named for KKK Member Eyed for Renaming

Officials are considering renaming a Melville road after a librarian discovered that it was named for a family whose patriarch was a prominent member of the Ku Klux Klan, the Press has learned.

Ruland Road, which runs west to east between Broadhollow and Pinelawn Roads, was named for the Ruland family, who owned the land now occupied by Farmingdale State College for about 25 years before selling it to the college in 1913. Judson Floyd Ruland, the family patriarch, was a member of the KKK, according to a Jan. 9, 1925 obituary in The Long Islander that April Lynne Earle, a librarian at FSC’s Greenley Library, dug up while researching in response to a recent inquiry about the college property’s past owners. Earle wrote a letter to the Town of Huntington requesting that the Melville road name be changed, and town and Suffolk County officials are now in talks on the issue.

“Although Mr. Ruland was not a cyclops in the KKK, the values he upheld do not reflect the values of our present-day community,” Earle wrote in the letter. “I believe it is time to acknowledge that history and thus I would like to see the name of Ruland Road changed. Instead, we should honor someone from our community who does reflect our values, a true scholar, perhaps, and someone who contributed to letting the truth be known.”

The discovery of the history behind Ruland Road comes after Malverne village officials voted to change the name of Lindner Place to Acorn Way. Paul Lindner, a village founder whom the street was named for, was also a Klansman and in fact spoke at Ruland’s funeral, according to the news clipping. 

It also comes after a nationwide reckoning with statues and street names immortalizing racist historical figures, especially after the killing of George Floyd and rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Protests across the country have called for the removal of statues of prominent slave owners and Confederate leaders.

Map of Ruland Rd, Melville, NY 11747 - Melville Road
Courtesy Google Maps

Huntington Town Councilman Sal Ferro, whose district includes Ruland Road, began researching the road upon receiving Earle’s letter, including confirming the information with Town Historian Robert C. Hughes. Ferro says that while he’s not typically in favor of removing historic statues or changing names of streets, regardless if their history is pleasant or not, this one crosses a line for him and he would like to see it changed.

“[Ruland] was a racist, and he was just not somebody who brought people together,” Ferro told the Press. “I don’t believe it’s in the best interest of Huntington residents to have a street named after someone like that.”

Ruland Road runs from the northeast corner of the FSC campus on Broadhollow Road (Route 110) to Pinelawn Road, just north of Pinelawn Memorial Park. Upon learning that Ruland Road is owned by Suffolk County, Ferro organized a meeting with Legislator Tom Donnelly (D-Huntington Station) on Sept. 28, along with Earle and Hughes, to discuss next steps. The town would first need to submit a request to the county for the name change.

“I thank Councilman Ferro for arranging our very productive first meeting regarding the Town of Huntington’s request for a name change of Ruland Road,” Donnelly said in a statement to the Press. “There are truly very compelling reasons and, as the town does further research and gathers community input, I look forward to receiving the formal request and carrying it forward.”

If the county decides to move forward with the request, Donnelly would draft a resolution that must pass votes in the sightings committee and then the full legislative body before any change is made to the street name. This would require Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) to bring the resolution to the floor of the legislature. According to legislative aides, it is a lengthy process that would require further research and discussion among legislators.