- The Washington Times - Monday, December 29, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — It may come as no surprise when a New York City cabbie has a hard time finding a street, but what’s one to do when the street is on no city map, named for someone almost no one can remember and situated in some far-flung corner of town?

While Manhattan is littered with streets named after luminaries such as jazz legend Charlie Parker and Nobel prize-winning author Isaac Bashevis Singer, the majority are named after more local celebrities.

Try Rocco Traviglino Corner, named for the late owner of a now-defunct neighborhood grocery in the Middletown section of the Bronx.

Or Steve Mercado Stickball Boulevard in the Soundview section of the Bronx, named for a firefighter killed on September 11 who was a champion of the New York Emperor’s Stickball League.

And who could forget Lobster Joe Truscelli Drive on the southern edge of Staten Island?

As the story goes, Lobster Joe worked the clam beds in Raritan Bay for years, but when they were declared off-limits because of pollution, he turned to lobsters and supplied many of the island’s restaurants.

Scattered throughout the city’s 5,700 miles of roads are hundreds of streets named for legendary figures and local heroes. The honor is mostly bestowed posthumously, and often the honoree gets just a single block, a square or a corner. The new name typically doesn’t replace the original but is placed alongside the existing name.

The practice has become a favorite of the New York City Council, which doles out honorary street names faster than anyone can keep track. In fact, the council doesn’t even know how many street-naming bills it’s passed. Spokeswoman Lupe Todd estimated it would take an archivist days or weeks to tabulate.

An incomplete list dating back to the late 1980s is more than 70 pages, meaning more than 700 have been named in just the last 15 years. After the September 11, 2001, attacks alone, around 300 streets were named for those killed that day, Miss Todd said.

In the search for streets named in honor of the famous and the not-so-famous, remember to pack a lunch, wear good shoes and be prepared to ask for directions — often.

Take Edgar Allen Poe Street on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

“Whose street?” asked veteran cabbie Ali Mohammed on a recent run. “I’ve never heard of it.”

Few have. For the record, it’s a portion of 84th Street where the author lived when he wrote “The Raven.”

Some suggest street naming has lost its meaning.

“It’s a fairly harmless way to recognize some deserving or meritorious person, but it’s not really a very effective thing to do,” said New York City historian Kenneth T. Jackson. “It would be interesting to know: If the sign falls off, does it even get replaced?”


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