Names of New York: Discovering the City’s Past, Present, and Future Through Its Place-Names

Joshua Jelly-Schapiro. Pantheon, $20 (256p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4892-0
Jelly-Schapiro (Island People), a geographer and scholar-in-residence at NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge, delivers a fascinating look at how the names of New York City’s streets, neighborhoods, parks, and buildings have shaped the city’s identity. Jelly-Schapiro gathers a smorgasbord of New York City lore, including the origins of the word jonesing in reference to an alley near Great Jones Street where junkies hung out in the 1960s. He also delves into theories about the etymology of Mannahatta and explains that the York in New York derives from a Celtic term for “place of the yew tree.” Real estate magnates have left their mark all over the city, sometimes unintentionally: the founders of Astoria in Queens hoped to raise money from John Jacob Astor by naming their village in his honor, but he never visited and only coughed up $500. More recently, New York streets have taken on new names in honor of illustrious residents: Ruby Dee and Ozzie Davis have his-and-her street signs on their old Harlem block. Throughout, Jelly-Schapiro maintains a light touch, even when acknowledging the city’s history of wealth inequality and racial discrimination. Lovers of the Big Apple will delight in this unique and informative history. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 01/28/2021
Release date: 04/13/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 1 pages - 978-1-5247-4893-7
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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