View Full Version : New York City Street Names

January 26th, 2003, 11:23 AM
I was perturbed when real estate companies change the name of Nathaniel Moore Street in Tribeca to North Moore Street, even though there was no official sanction to do so. *Because of the length of Mr. Moore's first name, the street signs simply state "N Moore." *In the same fashion that real estate interests created names such as SoHo, NoHo, DUMBO, TriBeca, wtc., they made up a more-catchy name to help sell or rent apartments and other properties. *Unfortunately, this made-up name disrespects one of our country's greatest Revolutionary War heroes, who was executed by the British after being captured and held prisoner on a ship in Brooklyn for several months. *While I do not know what to do to rectify this situation, if anything, I do want to let it be know through this forum that I resent the fact that real-estate interests are not only blighting some of New York City itself in a physical sense, but they are also demolishing history by re-writing it to serve their narrow interests. *That being said, does anyone else out there object to the creation of catchy-cutesy neighborhood names and morphing of street names for no other reason than to raise the prices of real estate? * * *

January 26th, 2003, 11:30 AM
Isn't the city government responsible for street signs? I doubt it succumbed to pressure from the real estate industry in this case.

January 26th, 2003, 01:38 PM
The street sign remains the same, but real estate developers are calling their new buildings such thing as the NoMoore or the NorthMoore. *There is even a bar/restaurant called the NoMoore! *By inference, the real esate folks are changing the meaning of the sign that reads "N Moore" from Nathaniel Moore to North Moore. * When JFK, Jr. died, he had an apartment on N(athaniel) Moore Street that was reported in the papers as North Moore Street. *And when 9-11 happened, the papers mentioned the firehouse on the corner of N Moore and Varick Streets as being on North Moore and Varick. *So, you see what I'm sayuing is that the real estate interests have changed our perception of N Moore Street. *The reality is that while the street sign and the official name remain the same, people are obliterating the history and good memory of Nathaniel Moore by changing the interpretation of the sign the reads: "N Moore" *

January 26th, 2003, 01:53 PM
I see. Yes, it's a shame. However I think SoHo and TriBeCa, for instance, may have received their new names from the artists who revitalized those areas before they were gentrified. Sometimes the name changes are disrespectful of history, sometimes they are simply an adaptation to the current identity of the place.

January 27th, 2003, 12:34 AM
Acronyms and abbreviations for almost everything seems to be the order of the day.

January 27th, 2003, 11:50 AM
I think SoHo and TriBeCa were given the names by artists, but all the "new" names were real estate all the way - NoHo, NoLita, SoHa, DUMBO. *It never ends. *Then there are all the names like Hudson Heights that are made up so it's not called Harlem. *It's pretty funny, but I guess it's interesting in some ways to have all these "new neighborhoods."

January 27th, 2003, 01:20 PM
"Taking his cue from the names SoHo and TriBeCa, Mr. Walentas began to promote the name Dumbo. The neighborhood had always been known as Fulton Landing." See this thread (http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/topic.cgi?forum=1&topic=71).

By the end of the 1950s developers rejected the Hell's Kitchen designation in favor of a name resurrected from the past: Clinton, after former mayor and governor DeWitt Clinton.

January 27th, 2003, 03:49 PM
Quote: from billyblancoNYC on 10:50 am on Jan. 27, 2003
I think SoHo and TriBeCa were given the names by artists, but all the "new" names were real estate all the way - NoHo, NoLita, SoHa, DUMBO. *It never ends. *Then there are all the names like Hudson Heights that are made up so it's not called Harlem. *It's pretty funny, but I guess it's interesting in some ways to have all these "new neighborhoods."
I haven't yet heard of "SoHa." *Is that South of Harlem?

January 27th, 2003, 04:07 PM
Yes, but I'm really not 100% sure what the boundaries are. I think it's on the west side, kinda by Morningside Heights.

Anyone know for sure?

January 27th, 2003, 04:10 PM
Here's one SoHa reference...


January 27th, 2003, 06:08 PM
There's a bar between 108th and 109th Streets on Amsterdam Avenue named SoHa for South of Harlem. *I grew up in the neighborhood and always assumed that Harlem went as far south as 110th Street on the East Side of Morningside Park. *As for the West side of the park, it was always called Morningside Heights. * Heading North on Amsterdam, I always thought Harlem began at 125th Street. * Other than that, I do not know the other boundaries for Harlem.

January 27th, 2003, 06:17 PM
I thought that the Upper East Side ended at 96th Street. *What's between that and 110th? *Is it Spanish Harlem?

January 28th, 2003, 11:12 AM
On the far East Side between 96th and 116th, it is commonly Spanish Harlem. *However, as you go to the West Side, the lines blur. *Luxury buildings are now on the North Side of 96th at Third Avenue, and on the West Side there are now upper-middle-income buildings *on both sides of 110th Street at Central Park West. * Just as Chinatown took over most of Little Italy, apartment development for upper-middle-income and luxury apartment seems to be the order of the day, rather than preserving what remains of Harlem and Spanish Harlem. *I'm sorry that I don't know what the definitive border lines of these two areas really are. *

February 8th, 2003, 12:29 PM
Why not dub Northern Manhattan as SoBro,and South Bronx as No Man?
We could refer to City Island as EBRON Isle,and the south of Brooklyn as SOB.There could be SOB Beach,the SOB Expressway,and businesses would use the area to develop trendy,thematic places like:SOB Pizza(where the waiters are real pricks),SOB Car Sales(you get a lousy deal and feel bad about it).
The SOB Police Department would arrest everybody,at least once,and be mean when they do their work.
East of East New York would be EEny,Manhattan becomes MANny;Queens,east of Manhattan,of course becomes QUEEny (take the QUEEny to the SOB,exit at the first LIE you come to) etc....

February 8th, 2003, 05:13 PM
"...SOB Pizza(where the waiters are real pricks),.."

I like it, New York theme dining - you're onto something good there.

Or maybe you're on something good there. * ;)

The Brain
March 14th, 2003, 10:17 AM
The area between CPW and 9th ave at 106th street is now being referred to as Mahattanville. I believe this was always until recently a part of traditional West Harlem. More real estate scum rewriting our culture. As far as Nathaniel Moore. Johnny is 100% correct. It is a collosal disrespect to the Great Nat Moore to have his name evaporated and gone unchecked by the new denizons of the area. In a city where Thallonius Monk the Jazz artist has a 20 letter street sign (W61st) Nat Greene goes undefended. By the way is there a "Moore st" that is south of Tri becka ?

March 14th, 2003, 10:59 AM
I heard thw worst one yet...

BoCoCa - Boerum Hill, CObble Hill, and Carroll Gardens.

There's actually a website (not too nad, though):


March 14th, 2003, 06:37 PM
I remember having debates about N.Moore St when Tribeca was called the Washington St Market. The pioneers who inhabited Tribeca as the food companies moved out get the credit for the name Tribeca. They were battling urban renewal (indepenence Plaza) and wanted to give the area an identity.

The Nathaniel Moore North Moore issue has more (no pun intended) to do with ignorance than a real-estate scheme. And the city is not without guilt:


And the proper historic signage

The restaurant with no sense of history

June 3rd, 2003, 03:42 PM
The thrust of this argument assumes that the N. actually does stand for Nathaniel and not North. Is there any source to back this up?

This map from 1870 (http://www.bklyn-genealogy-info.com/Map/1870/1870.NYC.html) clearly shows the street called North Moore, so if it is a mistake, it's a mistake that was made more than 100 years ago.

Edited to update map link

June 3rd, 2003, 09:45 PM
There's a third component to this argument. Some say the street was named for Benjamin Moore (not the paint guy), president of Columbia University c 1800.

June 4th, 2003, 09:49 AM
I see!

I asked about this question over on gothamcenter.org (http://www.gothamcenter.org/discussions/viewthread.cfm?ID=709&ForumID=33) and got the following replies which seem to corroborate your version of the story, Zippy:

From Henry Moscow's GREAT book, The Street Book, . . .Manhattan's Street Names and their Origins:

Pg 79 - North Moore Street

"Namesake: Benjamin Moore . . . Episcopalian Bishop of New York and President of Columbia College from 1801 to 1811.
. . . Father of Clement C. Moore who wrote 'Twas the night Before Christmas' The Street is called North Moore to distinguish it from Moore Street."

pg 76

"Moore St. is no relative to North Moore Street. . . Moore St.'s name . . . is attributed almost certainly erroneously to a Col. John Moore.. . "

Older maps make this Moore St. "MOOR" street.

And just to add to the confusion, the Benjamin Moore mentioned above is NOT the paint guy. . .

This book is back in print and is a lot of fun.


I believe that the current N. Moore St. IS North Moore St. but on older maps there was ANOTHER Moore St. further downtown that was named after Nathaniel Moore.

(Edited by cpv204 at 9:18 am on June 4, 2003)

June 4th, 2003, 11:09 AM
Thanks for the link. Nice site.

I love the ambiguity. Some businesses on the street list their address as xx Nathaniel Moore St.

January 11th, 2005, 02:17 PM
According to several sources:

North Moore Street - This Tribeca cross street was named for Bishop Benjamin Moore, who served as the sixth rector of Trinity Church (from 1806 to 1816) and as president of King's College, which later became Columbia. The "North" was added later to eliminate confusion with the Financial District street of the same name.

The confusion arose because...

Moore Street - Before landfill changed the shape of Manhattan, Moore Street was the location where boats were moored. The final "e" was added to the name over time

April 20th, 2009, 09:42 AM
I couldn't find another thread about street names.

April 20, 2009

Reliving the Sean Bell Case by Renaming a Street

By ANNE BARNARD (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/anne_barnard/index.html?inline=nyt-per)

William G. Bell, at Liverpool and 97th Streets in Queens, near where his son, Sean, was killed.

Street signs that memorialize two celebrities and two auxiliary officers.

New York politicians love to rename streets, and the battles that ensue range from the explosive to the mundane.

The City Council’s vote in 2007 to reject renaming a street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, after the black activist Sonny Carson came closer to dividing the Council along racial lines than any issue that members could recall. On the other hand, when Rose Feiss, the founder of a lampshade factory, was honored in 1987 with an eponymous boulevard in the South Bronx, the main objection was that the change might confuse people looking for the former Walnut Street.

So William G. Bell is prepared for anything as he pushes for a Sean Bell (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/sean_bell/index.html?inline=nyt-per) Way in Jamaica, Queens. “I can’t get no more disappointed than what I already went through,” said Mr. Bell, who is seeking to rename several blocks of Liverpool Street for his son Sean, 23, who was killed there in a barrage of police bullets as he left a nightclub on what would have been his wedding day, Nov. 25, 2006.

Police officers testified that in a chaotic scene outside the club they believed that a friend of Sean Bell’s had a gun. No gun was found. When a Queens judge last year acquitted the three detectives involved, the decision spurred protests that led to hundreds of arrests.

But Mr. Bell’s campaign has proceeded largely without controversy.

Community Board 12, the neighborhood advisory body, approved the proposal on Wednesday, sending it on to the City Council, which will vote on a package of name changes later this year. The Council usually approves proposals backed, like Mr. Bell’s is, by the local community board and council member.

Still, street names resonate as symbols of identity. So the prospect of a Sean Bell Way — named for a man whose death renewed anger over police shootings of black men — has unleashed a flood of conflicting emotions.

“A small measure of justice for the Bell family,” said Shawn Williams, a crime victims’ advocate who has worked with the Bells on community projects, and who cried with them after the community board vote.

“Absurd,” countered Michael J. Palladino, the president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, a police union. He noted that Mr. Bell’s blood-alcohol content was above the legal limit when his car hit a detective before the shooting.

On Liverpool Street, lined by neat, wood-framed houses and small front yards, a few residents balked at renaming it for the ugliest date in its history. But more relished the idea. “I think it’s good — so we can remember what happened,” said Esriee Seepersaud, 46, who drives a school bus.

Advocates of the renaming differ on the meaning of the move. Does it simply commemorate a tragedy and comfort a family? Or does it wrest from the city a new admission that the police did wrong?

The Bells’ city councilman, Leroy Comrie, said the proposed name change would not be an indictment of the police. “I’m not trying to condemn the police or say that Sean Bell was a saint, but I think that what happened there was a unique tragedy,” he said.

But for many of the scores of people who showed up from all over New York to support the Bell family at the community board hearing — some wearing T-shirts that read “I Am Sean Bell” in tall silver letters — the vote repudiated, in a small way, the acquittal of the police officers.

“The police were mostly responsible,” said Jamel McClain, 32, one of the members of the Escalade Krown Holdaz, a social club for sport utility vehicle owners, whose members arrived in force. “I feel like I am Sean Bell, because we are all black males.”

The proposal passed the community board, 30 to 2, with 5 abstentions.
The board chairwoman, Adjoa Gzifa, said she voted no because many young men die in shootings — including her own son, killed in a robbery in North Carolina.

“We have sewer problems, we have drainage problems, we have foreclosure problems, we have things that we need to be focusing on, and street renamings are not one of them,” she said.

She said she had no quarrel with the Bell family, but wanted to maintain a high bar for renaming streets, reserving the honor for those who have made significant contributions to the city.

But the annals of street renamings include both the hefty and the trivial.
And there is precedent for memorializing someone more for the manner of his death than for the grandeur of his achievements: Earlier this month, the Council approved (http://council.nyc.gov/downloads/pdf/spring_09_street_renaming.pdf) naming a street in Bushwick, Brooklyn, for Jose O. Sucuzhañay, an Ecuadorean immigrant beaten to death there last year.

Last month, part of 53rd Street in Manhattan was temporarily named U2 (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/u/u2/index.html?inline=nyt-org) Way in honor of the band’s appearance on “The Late Show With David Letterman (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/l/david_letterman/index.html?inline=nyt-per).” The actor Jerry Orbach (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/o/jerry_orbach/index.html?inline=nyt-per) got a corner in Midtown — not without a fight — but a proposed Big Pun Street in the Bronx for the rap MC Big Punisher was rejected over some of his lyrics.

Last week, a corner in Murray Hill in Manhattan was named for Jan Karski, a Polish diplomat who was the first person to bring news of the Holocaust to President Franklin D. Roosevelt (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/r/franklin_delano_roosevelt/index.html?inline=nyt-per).

Police officers and others who die in the line of duty are often honored. Two corners at Sullivan and Bleecker Streets in Greenwich Village were recently named for two police auxiliary officers, Eugene Marshalik and Nicholas T. Pekearo, killed nearby in 2007 as they chased a gunman.

Sometimes, opposition comes when it is least expected: Eric N. Gioia, a Queens councilman, encountered fierce community opposition to renaming a street for an advocate for Irish immigrants who died while serving in Iraq.
One critic worried that if streets were renamed for everyone who died in Iraq, street signs would look like totem poles, Mr. Gioia recalled. The proposal ultimately passed.

The Council battled over Sonny Carson, who once described himself as “antiwhite.” Only one white council member, Tony Avella, voted for the name change. Councilman Charles Barron (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/charles_barron/index.html?inline=nyt-per) recalled it as “the most racially divisive vote” he had seen in eight years on the Council.

At least navigational confusion is no longer an issue. Nowadays, in a gesture of mercy toward postal workers, the original street name stays, along with the new one.

But in 1903, a city councilman told The New York Times that a proposal to rename the Bowery — local merchants thought the name had unsavory connotations — had gone nowhere because soldiers and sailors would get lost looking for the famous party zone.

“The efficiency of the Army and Navy will be impaired,” the councilman lamented. “Change the flag of the country, but don’t change the name of the Bowery.”


April 20th, 2009, 05:04 PM
I'd remembered the thread "Nathaniel Moore - Street Names", so I merged them.

April 21st, 2009, 05:59 AM
I'd remembered the thread "Nathaniel Moore - Street Names", so I merged them.

Thanks, NY@K, I was going to put it here but thought the original title was too specific.

January 23rd, 2011, 05:39 AM
Uncrowning Manhattan

Q. What Manhattan streets had their royal names changed after the Revolution?

A. Many of these pre-Revolutionary streets were officially renamed in 1794, but some were renamed more than once. Here is a list taken from an 1896 chronology and checked with the Web site oldstreets.com (http://oldstreets.com/), “A Guide to Former Street Names in Manhattan,” compiled and annotated by Gilbert Tauber:

Crown Street is now Liberty Street, and Maiden Lane between Liberty and Pearl Streets.
Duke Street is now Stone Street between Broad Street and Hanover Square.
George Street: A number of streets were once named George, but the main one is now Spruce Street.

King George Street is now part of William Street between Frankfort and Pearl Streets.

King Street, the pre-Revolutionary one, is now Pine Street. The present King Street in the West Village was named after Rufus King, New York’s first United States senator, according to “The Street Book” by Henry Moscow.

Little Queen Street is now Cedar Street.

Princess Street is now Beaver Street between Broad and William Streets.

Queen Street is now the south side of Hanover Square, from Old Slip to Wall Street, and Pearl Street from Wall Street to Park Row.


January 12th, 2012, 12:18 AM
Too Many Notable People to Name Street for Just One


West 69th Street facing east from Broadway. A proposal to give it the honorary name
Matthew Sapolin Way has been opposed by the street's block association.

Although he had been blind since age 5 and reliant on a guide dog, Matthew P. Sapolin was the city’s first commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People With Disabilities, pressing to make the city’s buildings, taxis and sidewalks more accommodating to people who use wheelchairs or cannot see. He was an accomplished wrestler and musician as well.

So when he died of cancer in late November (http://nyti.ms/wDpdtw) at age 41, it seemed only natural that his colleagues and family would look for a way to honor him. This being a city with a numbered street grid, one idea they settled on was putting up signs that name West 69th Street in Manhattan, where he and his family lived, in his memory.

But that request has set off what one block leader calls “a kerfuffle.” The West 69th Street Block Association has opposed renaming any portion of the street after Mr. Sapolin, and, for now, the matter has been withdrawn from the calendar of Community Board 7, whose territory is the famously contentious Upper West Side. Community boards must weigh in before any streets can be renamed, though the ultimate decision rests with the City Council.

Block association members said they had nothing against Mr. Sapolin, but most members did not know him; he apparently was not active in block affairs.

Moreover, the two blocks the association embraces — between Central Park and Broadway — have been home to many celebrities who the association believes might also be deserving of street names: the ballet dancers Maria Tallchief and Edward Villella (http://nyti.ms/zGRaNr), the actresses Gwen Verdon and Celeste Holm, and the writer Robert A. Caro (http://nyti.ms/Ay9zAr). Diana R. Wienbroer, a retired community college professor who publishes the block’s newsletter, said she believed that Paul Simon lived or had lived on the Central Park West corner as well.

The association prefers to have the street — a tree-lined stretch of brownstones, stout apartment houses and a 19th-century Episcopal church — simply remain West 69th Street.

“Nobody is saying that he doesn’t deserve an honor,” Ms. Wienbroer said. “But naming the block after one important person would mean omitting all the other important people.”

Naming streets after local residents or activists has become common, with the original name or number of the street remaining and a second sign with the new honoree standing just below. But such honors have periodically provoked bitter quarrels. In 2007, Community Board 3 in Brooklyn recommended that four blocks of Gates Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant be named after Sonny Carson (http://nyti.ms/zyjb8e), a radical activist who often described himself as antiwhite and whose critics said he was also anti-Semitic. The City Council, in a racially divided vote, ultimately rejected the measure.

In 2009, despite police union opposition, the Council voted to rename several blocks of Liverpool Street in Jamaica, Queens, Sean Bell Way (http://nyti.ms/x7q4le) after the man killed in a barrage of police bullets outside a nightclub on what would have been his wedding day. In recent weeks, there has been a dispute (http://nyti.ms/wU1usW) over naming West 121st Street after the comedian George Carlin, who critics said was openly disdainful of his Roman Catholic parish, which is on the same block.

The Upper West Side has had its share of street namings. West 84th Street is also known as Edgar Allan Poe Street, after the poet who lived there, and West 86th Street is Isaac Bashevis Singer Boulevard, after the home of the Yiddish writer. There are blocks named for the housing activists Doris Rosenblum and James Garst and one after Sidney Morison, a school principal and a pioneer in dual-language instruction.

Where the request to name the street after Mr. Sapolin originated is in dispute. The Mayor’s Office for People With Disabilities said it came from his family, but Gale A. Brewer, the local councilwoman, and Penny Ryan, district manager of Community Board 7, said it originated with the acting head of the disabilities office, Jason Mischel. Evelyn Erskine, a spokeswoman for the Bloomberg administration, said only that “the city is looking at a number of ways to honor Matt Sapolin’s memory.”

Ms. Wienbroer learned about the naming effort through signs posted on the street’s lampposts informing residents that there would be a Community Board vote on Tuesday over naming 69th Street for Mr. Sapolin.

“We didn’t recognize the name,” Ms. Wienbroer said.

The association made its feelings known to the community board, and the naming proposal was withdrawn.

In the aftermath, Councilwoman Brewer has asked association officials to meet with Mr. Mischel over what can be done to honor Mr. Sapolin. The street naming is still on the table, but other approaches may be considered, like attaching a plaque on his building that lays out aspects of his biography.

Some members of Community Board 7 prefer a plaque. One member, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified, said the police might get confused if directed to an accident at Matthew Sapolin Way. And schoolchildren, he said, may not learn anything about Mr. Sapolin from a street sign, while a plaque may lay out his achievements.


January 9th, 2013, 10:59 PM
A New Street That, if Truth Be Told, Is Anything But


Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
On the Lower East Side, people walk down A New Street every day.

There’s A New Street in town, and it’s been there for years.

The street is a blocklong bit of the Lower East Side (https://maps.google.com/maps?oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&q=40.717924,-73.976444&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x89c2597c24bbd0c9:0x374eaf1ac94d26d0,%2B40% C2%B0+43%27+4.63%22,+-73%C2%B0+58%27+35.14%22&gl=us&ei=H3_sUK3zJain0AHb4YGQAw&ved=0CDUQ8gEwAA) that forms the bottom of a U-shape appendage to East Houston Street, flanked on one side by ballfields and on the other by Bard High School (http://bhsec.bard.edu/) and a public-housing building. But what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in mystery.

Maps call the street, which intersects with Mangin Street, Baruch Place. But that’s not the reality on the ground, or, rather, up on the pole (https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&client=firefox-a&q=a+new+st,+new+york+ny&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x89c2f600bbf67fbd:0x27feff6862404012,A+New+ St,+New+York,+NY+10029&gl=us&ei=pD3sUIO6GeP00gHTrIGwDw&ved=0CE0Q8gEwAA) where the street signs are. That’s “signs,” plural. One sign reads “Stanton St,” even though on the map, Stanton Street stops in its tracks several blocks west. Right above that is another standard city street sign that reads “A New St,” as if “A New” is the block’s appellation.

The street is not even unique in its confusing seminovelty. Type “A New St., New York NY (http://maps.google.com/maps?q=a+new+street,+new+york+ny&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&hnear=A+New+St,+New+York,+10029&gl=us&t=m&z=16)” into Google Maps, and you zoom six miles uptown to a stub east of First Avenue between 110th and 111th Streets. (Stranger still, on the map, East 110th Street, which bears the honorary moniker Tito Puente Way up until this block, suddenly becomes “New Street” without the “A” as it heads to the river. In reality, there is no street there.)

Go to East Harlem, though, and signs for “A New Street” are nowhere to be found. The block itself has no street signs of any kind on any corner.

“We just say we’re between 110th and 111th Streets off of First Avenue,” said Stevenson Aristide, assistant manager of the Edison Parking lot on the western side of the street. Opposite the lot are two apartment towers, 425 East 110th and 420 East 111th. Two elderly women, longtime residents who (like the street itself) refused to divulge their names, said they had grown accustomed to the ambiguity.

“When I call for a car service, I just call this the cul-de-sac,” the first woman said.

Her friend had a different answer: “Everyone around here just calls it the street with no name.”

Attempts to get city officials to explain the (semi-)existence of the uptown and the downtown A New Streets were not immediately successful. A Transportation Department spokeswoman, Nicole Garcia, initially responded, “Typically, this designation is used as a placeholder on the city map when a mapped street awaits a new name.”

Last Friday, however, the department reported that it had consulted with the topographical bureau in the Manhattan borough president’s office, and with the city’s Planning Department, which researched official city maps, and determined that at some point in time that downtown block had been made an official continuation of Stanton Street.

“D.O.T. will make the necessary adjustments to reflect this,” a transportation official wrote, “retaining the Stanton Street sign while removing the other sign, which was apparently placed there decades ago based on maps at that time.”

So New York will lose one of its little quirks, but at least Bard High School students will know where they stand, literally. As for the East Harlem block, Ms. Garcia said that because it was still officially nameless, it might have to go through the City Council’s street-naming process. Given that maps already call it “A New St,” maybe when the Transportation Department takes those signs down on Stanton Street, it can simply recycle them uptown.


February 26th, 2014, 01:40 AM
Honorific Streets, Now Cataloged


It took Gilbert Tauber only three months to identify about 1,600 honorific street names because the City
Council’s legislative record since 1998 is online. Credit Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

For a brief moment, a woman named Zenita Thompson enjoyed a small dollop of immortality. In 2006, City Councilwoman Letitia James of Brooklyn introduced legislation to rename half of a two-block-long street in Crown Heights, McKeever Place, for Ms. Thompson.

Since then, though, not only have Ms. Thompson’s accomplishments been lost to history by the Council, but Ms. James also had the same street renamed in honor of someone else.

Navigating and deciphering the voluminous number of honorific streets is a daunting task, even for a city official. But at least one civic-minded New Yorker has taken on the challenge and come up with something that has never existed: a master list (http://oldstreets.com/honorStreet.asp). The Council has also amended its rules so that co-naming is a little less haphazard.

The short life of Zenita Thompson Place began in December 2006, when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signed legislation that co-named 64 thoroughfares. Ten were in honor of victims of Sept. 11. The mayor read all 10 names.

“The remaining 54 names,” he said, “represent individuals or entities that are being honored for their lifetime accomplishments, and while it is not possible to describe the reason each individual or entity is deserving of a street name change, each council member who submitted a name presented a detailed justification for this honor.”

In the Council’s formal briefing paper supporting the legislation, though, five of the names were not accompanied by any justification. One was Ms. Thompson’s.

For Brooklynites with long memories, McKeever Place had been named in 1932 (from Cedar Place) for two contractors who helped build nearby Ebbets Field. But Zenita Thompson might draw a blank stare.

Not only did the legislation and briefing paper fail to include her biography, but just six years later, Ms. James, who was elected as the city’s public advocate last fall, introduced legislation that renamed the entire two blocks of McKeever Place between Montgomery Street and Empire Boulevard, including the blocklong Zenita Thompson Place.

Now McKeever Place is also known as Reginald Nero’s Way. When it was named in 2012, Ms. James helpfully identified Mr. Nero, who died in 2010, as “a guiding force in the lives of many young men and women” and a founder of Medgar Evers College.

But what about Zenita Thompson? “I would imagine she was not aware of the overlap,” a spokeswoman for Ms. James said, adding that she had no “further background info on Thompson at this time.”

“The Council handles vetting and standards,” the spokeswoman, Aja Worthy-Davis, added, “so any discrepancies should be discussed with them.”

The best the Council was able to do was to describe Ms. Thompson as “a community leader and activist.”

The public-spirited project to compile a list of honorific names started with a telephone call from Anne Mitcheltree, a creative arts therapist who lives on the Lower East Side, to Michael Miscione, the Manhattan borough historian. She had attended a community board meeting and was stunned by the passion expressed by her neighbors over renaming a street for a local hero.

In scouting a location for another possible renaming, she came across Frieda Zames Way and wondered for whom it was named. The board said there was no master list of honorific names. Nor was there a roster of streets still available for renaming.

Mr. Miscione agreed that one was needed. He called Gilbert Tauber, his “go-to street guy,” who had compiled a catalog of extinct Manhattan street names but not current ones.

“Well, next thing I know I get an email from him saying, in essence, ‘Mike, since there is no list, I’m going to make one,’” Mr. Miscione recalled. “And that’s what he did.”

Mr. Tauber, a 78-year-old retired urban planner who lives on the Upper West Side, began his career as a volunteer guide for the Museum of the City of New York, then worked for the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau. He accompanied his wife to Germany, where she taught music while he, a New York history buff, became frustrated when old tracts referred to street names that no longer existed.

His research took three years, much of it in the New York Public Library’s map division, where he identified more than 1,000 old streets (Congress Street, King George Street, Smell Street Lane and Ragpickers Row, to name a few) by about 2006.

Identifying about 1,600 honorific names took only three months because the Council’s legislative record since 1998 is online. The Council has also adopted rules that emphasize co-naming over renaming streets and that require more documentation.

The name changes do not alter the official city map, but mandate that signs identify a street’s formal name and the honorific one. Mr. Tauber said he was planning to camp out at the City Hall Library to research street names that go back beyond 1998.

“I’m not even sure how far back these honorific street names go,” he said. “The City Council has wisely become much more careful in tinkering with the underlying street names. The earliest experience with that was probably the bright idea to change Sixth Avenue to Avenue of the Americas, which has not been an unalloyed success.”

Enjoy challenging your New York cabby? Try stumping him by asking to be driven to Lin Zexu Square or Harry Rosen Way. (Just remember, though, with the meter running, the joke may be on you.)

For the record, Lin Zexu Square, at East Broadway between Oliver and Catherine Streets in Manhattan, was named in 1999 for the commissioner appointed by the Chinese emperor in 1838 to eradicate opium.

Harry Rosen Way, also known as Cheesecake Corner, at the intersection of Flatbush and DeKalb Avenues in Brooklyn, was named in 1999 to honor the founder of Junior’s restaurant.

Frieda Zames Way, by the way, on East Fourth Street between First Avenue and Avenue A, was named in 2008 for the former president of Disabled in Action of New York.