Opinion

Seven New York City Streets That Should Be Renamed After Artworks

Spike Lee with a mockup of the "Do the Right Thing Way" street sign (photo by @sheltonjlee/Twitter)
Spike Lee with a mockup of the “Do the Right Thing Way” street sign (photo by @sheltonjlee/Twitter)

Today New York’s City Council voted on a proposal to co-name the block of Stuyvesant Avenue between Lexington Avenue and Quincy Street in Brooklyn “Do the Right Thing Way” after the Spike Lee joint that was filmed there in 1989. While the co-naming of New York City blocks is nothing new — there are more than 1,500 spread across the five boroughs — “Do the Right Thing Way” is unprecedented as it is poised to become the first block named for a work of art.

Robert Cornegy Jr., the councilman who suggested the co-naming, told DNAinfo that City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and her staff had “worked very hard to be able to open this door to allow for iconic films and art to now have a place in the history of street co-naming.” Now that the door is open to name blocks after artworks, what other New York City streets could do with an artful alias? Herewith, proposals for seven co-named blocks.

Piet Mondrian, "Broadway Boogie Woogie" (1942–43) (image via Wikimedia Commons)
Piet Mondrian, “Broadway Boogie Woogie” (1942–43) (image via Wikimedia Commons)

Broadway Boogie Woogie Way (Broadway between West 220th and Stone streets, Manhattan): The name “Broadway” has lost its lustre, plus all the other boroughs have Broadways of their own, it’s time Manhattan’s Broadway — all of it — be renamed for what may be the most famous artwork inspired by the island’s distinctive grid layout, Piet Mondrian’s “Broadway Boogie Woogie” (1942–43).

Dog Shot Film Way (4th Street between Bond and Hoyt streets, Gowanus, Brooklyn): This is the block where Tom Otterness — the sculptor of cutesy bronze figures who, in 1977, adopted a dog and then filmed himself shooting it dead to make the short film “Dog Shot Film/Shot Dog Film” — has his studio.

FOOD Way (Prince Street between West Broadway and Wooster Street, Soho, Manhattan): The famous artist-run restaurant FOOD, founded by Carol Goodden, Tina Girouard, and Gordon Matta-Clark in 1971, operated out of 127 Prince Street for about three years. Though you might expect it to have fallen victim to the mallification of Soho, the space currently houses an annex of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.

Man at the Crossroads Road (West 50th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, Midtown, Manhattan): What was to be Diego Rivera’s magnum opus, the fresco “Man at the Crossroads” (1934) that was commissioned for the lobby of Nelson Rockefeller’s eponymous skyscraper, became perhaps even more famous when the businessman ordered it destroyed over the artist’s inclusion of Vladimir Lenin and a Soviet May Day parade in the epic composition. Naming a block near its intended site would make for a fitting homage to Rivera’s long-lost work.

Nighthawks Way (Greenwich Avenue between West 11th and West 12th streets, West Village, Manhattan): The jury is still out on which Manhattan location inspired Edward Hopper’s iconic diner scene “Nighthawks” (1942). Was it the corner of Christopher and Greenwich streets (currently occupied by a restaurant recently renamed “Nighthawks”), or the cigar shop in the prow of the Flatiron Building? In 2013, on the occasion of the Whitney Museum’s Hopper Drawing show, New York magazine made a compelling case for one of two places on Greenwich Avenue at either West 11th or West 12th Street.

Richard Serra, "Tilted Arc" (1981) (photo by US General Services Administration, via Wikimedia Commons)
Richard Serra, “Tilted Arc” (1981) (photo by US General Services Administration, via Wikimedia Commons)

Tilted Arc Way (Lafayette Street between Worth and Duane streets, Lower Manhattan): The Richard Serra sculpture “Tilted Arc” (1981) may have been removed from Federal Plaza more than 25 years ago, but its memory lives on in the still-miserable public square that it left behind. In honor of this exceptionally divisive public sculpture, Lafayette Street between Worth and Duane streets should be co-named “Tilted Arc Way.”

Wheatfield Way (1st Place between Battery Place and Little West Street, Battery Park City, Manhattan): Back when Battery Park City was a barren stretch of landfill waiting to be developed, Agnes Denes planted a field of wheat there. The two-acre urban land art project, “Wheatfield — A Confrontation: Battery Park Landfill, Downtown Manhattan” (1982), eventually yielded over 1,000 pounds of wheat, clearly meeting the criteria for earning its own co-named street.

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