Saturday, March 15, 2014

NYC Streets in Imagination

Cities are only as great as their people. And, of course, many great people have lived in NYC over the centuries. 

In fact, so many notable people have lived here that some of the very streets where they resided have been named after them. 103rd street and Broadway has been renamed Humphrey Bogart Way. The area on the Bowery near where CBGBs used to be has been renamed for Joey Ramone. And numerous streets in Queens have been named after cops and firefighters who died in 9/11. You can find a comprehensive list at NYC Honorific Street Names to see where they lived and are now remembered.  

Talking about remembering, you must take a look at these amazing photographs by legendary New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham. Although he's become famous for snapping pictures of the rich, powerful, and beautiful, he's also revered for his photos of ordinary New Yorkers walking the streets. He has an uncanny ability to catch people doing interesting, idiosyncratic things. A recently released collection of his photos were taken back in 1968, when NYC was in some trouble. It's an amazing visual record of a city on the brink of crises -- and the humanity it contained. All New Yorkers, at any time in our history, are iconic.

One of the most iconic New Yorkers was, of course, Jackie O. History remembers her as First Lady to President John F. Kennedy, queen to his king, as the two of them reigned over America in Camelot in the early 1960s. Then that tragic day in Dallas in November, 1963 took him away and she, in turn, moved to New York City to live the rest of her life (she died in 1994). But her legacy is not just to be found in her short tenure as first lady or her bravery after the assasination. Living for the last 30 years of her 64 years, Jackie O became one of the city's leading preservationists. She helped restore Central Park after the savage budget cuts of the 1970s. And she helped to save Grand Central Station, winning it landmark status, and preserving a great NYC icon. After her death, the reservoir in Central Park was named after her. Photos from her three decades in NYC have recently been published in a new book and you can see some great samples here

There has been some controversy about name streets and public spaces and institutions after people. But I think it's important to remember that NYC is place where talented and brave people have lived, and naming the streets where they lived, and remembering how they contributed to our city's life and history, is a good thing to do.

1 comment:

  1. What about the people we forget? As a Queen's resident I have often wondered: Who was Corporal Kennedy? Was there a Major Deegan? Do you Mr. NYC?


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