Streams

Please Explain: New York Road (and Bridge, Tunnel, and other Place) Names

Friday, November 11, 2011

Kenneth T. Jackson, Jacques Barzun Professor in History and the Social Sciences at Columbia University, and Lisa Keller, Associate Professor of History at SUNY Purchase, both editors of The Encyclopedia of New York City, second edition, explain who the people behind the names of familiar tunnels, bridges, and expressways are. From the Van Wyck, the Major Deegan, and the Bruckner to the Kosciusco Bridge, the Holland Tunnel to Tompkins Square Park, Washington Heights, and Astoria.

Guests:

Kenneth T. Jackson and Lisa Keller

Comments [38]

Stefan from Bellerose

Kosciuszko was a hero for The US and Poland, having fought for both. He designed West Point and made a major contribution to the continental victory at Saratoga which was a turning point in the revolutionary war. He pushed for freedom to be extended to African slaves here and for serfs in Poland.
The reason the bridge was named after him in the 1940's had to do with Greenpoint becoming a Polish neighborhood at this time.

Nov. 11 2011 02:11 PM
Gary McCready from Westfield, nj

(correction) Seems that is ironic that none of the freeways/bridges around NYC is not named for Robert Moses - how about the Robert Moses Cross-bronx expressway

Gary (cc'83 Prof. Jackson's History of the City of New York City was my all-time favorite class there)

Nov. 11 2011 01:57 PM
barlow from ASTORIA

I like how F. Scott Fitzgerald choose Asroria to be the name of the soot covered rough neighborhood in which the downtrodden characters are found.

Nov. 11 2011 01:57 PM
Stefan from Bellerose

Kosciuszko WAS a Revolurtionary war hero AND a hero for Poland, having fought for the freedom of both. He designed West Point and contributed greatly to the American victory at Saratoga, which became the turning point of the war. He pushed for freedom to be extended to African slaves, and in Poland to the serfs.
The fact that the bridge was named after him in the 1940's had to do most likely with Greenpoint becoming a Polish neighborhood at this time.

Nov. 11 2011 01:56 PM
james andrea from Brick Twp. NJ

Please explain Idlewild (old name for JFK airport). It's not on Google.

Nov. 11 2011 01:56 PM
Larry from Williamsburg

Chelsea was the name of Clement Moore's estate on 23rd Street.

Clinton was the name of Hell's Kitchen before it became KH (I have heard).

Nov. 11 2011 01:55 PM
Gary McCready from Westfield, nj

Seems that is ironic that one of the freeways/bridges around NYC is not named for Robert Moses - how about the Robert Moses Cross-bronx expressway

Gary (cc'83 Prof. Jackson's History of the City of New York City was my all-time favorite class there)

Nov. 11 2011 01:54 PM
Otto Cosmopolis from LIC

Sorry, I remember that was the Holland Tunnel. I pulled a Kutcher

Nov. 11 2011 01:54 PM
Mondello from Harlem

Reserving the name of some of our assets for more worthy people is a great idea. Any suggestions?

Since Mr. Jackson mentioned NYC's 1898 Consolidation, I say Andrew H. Green, the forgotten “Father of Greater New York."

I also want the Triborough Bridge to return to its old, functional name!

Nov. 11 2011 01:53 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Are any of these places named for women? The only one I can think of is Margaret Corbin Circle, at the entrance to Ft. Tryon Park. She fought alongside her husband in the American Revolution & took over firing his cannon when he was killed. I just looked her up on the Distinguished Women website (http://www.distinguishedwomen.com/biographies/corbin.html), & guess what? Her 260th birthday is tomorrow!

Anyway, do the guests know any others?

Nov. 11 2011 01:53 PM
Gary McCready from Westfield, nj

Seems that is ironic that one of the freeways/bridges around NYC is not named for Robert Moses - how about the Robert Moses Cross-bronx expressway

Gary (cc'83 Prof. Jackson's History of the City of New York City was my all-time favorite class there)

Nov. 11 2011 01:53 PM
Otto Cosmopolis from Long Island City

I've heard the that the Lincoln Tunnel was named after the man who built the tunnel who committed suicide the week before the tunnel opened

Nov. 11 2011 01:49 PM
ellen from Manhattan

Then I had to laugh at myself for mis-spelling Van Wyck!

Nov. 11 2011 01:49 PM
Carol

Hi Leonard,
I grew up in the Bronx - named for Jonas Bronkas, the largest land owner in the Bronx. He had a huge farm with the first water wheel in the city. I lived a block from Mosholu Pkwy. I went to JHS. 80, where we learned that Mosholu, came from the local native- american tribe - the "Mosholu." Of course, they never translated it. We pronounced it they way you said it at first. Some people still prounce it the "Jewish" way - mashoela. There was a large jewish population that lived near the pkwy, which may explain that version. I wonder how the the tribe pronounced it. Thanks for having this segment

Nov. 11 2011 01:48 PM
Jim B

Could the Lincoln Tunnel have been named in conjunction with the Lincoln Highway?

Nov. 11 2011 01:47 PM
Larry from Williamsburg

The original European name for the Hudson was the "North River." The South River was the original name for the Delaware River. They demarcated the extent of New Netherland.

Nov. 11 2011 01:47 PM
Tim Judge from Sleepy Hollow, NY

Throgs Neck....your guest knows the Throg portion, but a neck is like a small peninsula.

Nov. 11 2011 01:47 PM
ellen from Manhattan

I had to laugh at your guest's describing the Van Wyke as everybody's "denouement."

I'm sure she meant that other French expression: "bete noire" but OTOH a lot of people have finished up on the Van Wyke and never been heard from again...so I guess you could say denouement!

Nov. 11 2011 01:46 PM
james andrea from Brick Twp. NJ

We did go to JFK from Idlewild...how did Idlewild come about?

Nov. 11 2011 01:45 PM
Larry from Williamsburg

in Dutch, a neck is a narrow peninsula. Throg's Neck is a peninsula named after Throg but I don't know what that is.

Nov. 11 2011 01:44 PM
melanie@belmangross.com from branford

crrect a typo van wyck is pronunced fun wick in Afrikaans

Nov. 11 2011 01:43 PM
bob from Manhattan

a bit off topic I was told the original name for the Hudson river was the new river??

If so or not when was the Hudson river named the Hudson river

Nov. 11 2011 01:42 PM
melanie from branford, ct

A Dutch friend from the netherlands told me that Houston Street was derived from the dutch for house garden - house is huis; garden is tuin; together huistuin'
Also, ni Afrikaans, the language of the descendants of the Dutch settlers in South Africa, Van Wyck is a common last name and is pronounced fun eick.

Nov. 11 2011 01:42 PM
David Balogh from Beacon, NY

Just put this on FB, but I'll post here as well.

Wyck is supposed to be pronounced "wike." Just recently visited the Van Wyck homestead up here in Fishkill:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Wyck_Homestead

Nov. 11 2011 01:41 PM
Sam from astoria

Was there a saw mill of some importance on the Saw Mill River?

Which borough name has the most interesting provenance?

I live in Astoria, named for the famous Astor family, who I'm told never deigned to set foot in the neighborhood.

Nov. 11 2011 01:41 PM
P from NY

Mosholu, according to Wikipedia:
"Mosholu" is an Algonquin Indian word meaning "smooth stones" or "small stones", and was first applied to the nearby creek now known as Tibbett's Brook.

Nov. 11 2011 01:40 PM
Alvin from Manhattan

Question: Why is Worth Street in lower Manhattan if Maj. Gen. Worth is buried up near Madison Square Park?

Nov. 11 2011 01:38 PM
Larry from Williamsburg

the "van" in Van Wyck should not be pronounced with a "vee" sound if you're really worried about pronouncing it! Would be "faan" in Dutch.

That is how the town of "Vlissingen" became "Flushing"

Nov. 11 2011 01:35 PM
Joost from Delft

Props to Mr. Jackson for giving proper credit to the Dutch for the early shaping of the city.
Russell Shorto's excellent book, "The Island at the Centre of the World: The Untold Story of the Founding of New York" points out the the 'wall' at what is now Wall Street wasn't there to keep the Indians (and the British) OUT, it was there to keep the Dutch settlers and other inhabitants of New Amsterdam IN.

Nov. 11 2011 01:34 PM
Mark from Mount Vernon

Bronson Van Wyck,descensant of NYC's first Mayor has been inteviewed many times and says the correct pronunciation is Van Wike.

Beginning in the 60s radio traffic reporters who didn't know, began saying Van Wick and listeners assumed it must be correct because they heard it on radio.

Perpetuating the mistake, the Transit Authority recorded announcement of subway stop mispronounces the name.

Nov. 11 2011 01:34 PM
Morgan Paar from Lower East Side

You should have these two on air once a month. Love it!

Nov. 11 2011 01:34 PM
Eve Sheridan

"freedom shrieked when Kosciusko fell"

my grandfather used to quote that. What does it mean???

Nov. 11 2011 01:33 PM
John from Ridgefield Park, NJ

I always thought Outerbridge Crossing was named because it was the farthest crossing from central NYC. It's actually named after a General Outerbridge.

Nov. 11 2011 01:30 PM
Marta from NYC

I made the same mistake about Zuccotti Park, but was reminded that Geraldine Ferraro was married to John Zaccaro, not Zuccotti.

Nov. 11 2011 01:29 PM
Michael J. Agovino from NY, NY

Great segment, but Geraldine Ferraro's widower is named John Zaccaro, not John Zuccotti. Thanks.

Michael J. Agovino

Nov. 11 2011 01:28 PM
Myles from downtown brooklyn

Can you please give me the correct pronunciation and some history for "Schermerhorn" (as in the Hoyt-Schermerhorn stop on the A/C/G)?

Nov. 11 2011 01:27 PM
johng from Buford Georgia

I was always told that The Whitestone Bridge should be pronounced Wit-stone. But never is. Is that true?

Nov. 11 2011 01:25 PM
Mario from Washington Heights

Can you please ask the guest if there is a precedent for un-naming bridges and roads - returning them to their original names.

The re-naming of the Queensboro Bridge to the Ed Koch bridge infuriated me - Koch had an antagonistic relationship with many New Yorkers. The renaming of the Triboro bridge to the RFK bridge was also maddening - doesn't RFK have enough named after him? While we're at it, the George Washington Bridge could go back to being named the Hudson River Bridge.

Has there ever been a political movement to re-name these things whatever they were called first?

Nov. 11 2011 01:07 PM

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