How We Name the City

Each day, millions of people “take” the Major Deegan, the Van Wyck Expressway, the Kosciuszko Bridge, and the Holland Tunnel. Few travelers remember that, before these names became urban shorthand for congestion, they were actual people. But how did this infrastructure get named? Who decided? By what process?

This event uses the naming of New York City’s roads, bridges, and civic institutions as a unique window into urban social structure and the City’s ever-changing inhabitants and legal structures. Drawing from her book Naming Gotham: The Villains, Rogues, and Heroes Behind New York Place Names, CUNY Law Professor Rebecca Bratspies will introduce the Revolutionary War figures, civil rights heroes, robber barons, and Tammany Hall politicos whose names grace much of our infrastructure, and will use their lives to gain an understanding of New York’s history.

Join a dialogue with Professor Bratspies and the Queens Memory Project that will highlight how New York City’s naming practices changed over time and will explain the current process for proposing honorary street names. Attendees will have the opportunity to contribute to the Queens Name Explorer project.


Nov 16 2023


6:00 pm - 7:30 pm


Forest Hills Library
108-19 71st Ave, Forest Hills, NY 11375