By Allyn Freeman
In the August 2017 issue of Westview, I wrote an article suggesting that 7th Avenue South be renamed to honor Jane Jacobs (1916-2006), a West Village resident and gadfly whose civic protests prevented Robert Moses from demolishing Washington Square Park and ruining Canal Street. Then I read a piece in the Sunday New York Times, dated August 20, 2017, which recounted the few Manhattan streets named after women. I learned for the first time of the existence of Jane Jacobs Way, a one-block stretch of Hudson Street from West 11th Street to Perry Street. In almost three decades of living on Charles Street, and walking past this corner untold times, I never once spotted the commemorative sign. (See the accompanying photograph.)
Since Ms. Jacobs has already been honored, it would be unnecessary to designate another local roadway in her name. Instead, it opens up a new naming possibility to replace permanently ‘7th Avenue South,’ which has been adversely mistaken for ‘7th Avenue’ for more than 100 years.
The first alternative would be Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick. He worked for many years in the West Village as a customs inspector at 470 West Street, opposite Gansevoort Street, which was named after his grandfather, General Peter Gansevoort, the Revolutionary War hero at the Battle of Fort Schuyler. However, my research has indicated that two Manhattan markers already exist for Melville—a sign at his birthplace at 6 Pearl Street, and a memorial plaque at 104 East 26th Street where he resided with his family.
Another candidate is Ed Koch, lifelong Greenwich Village resident, and three-term Mayor of New York City, from 1978 to 1989. The 59th Street/Queensboro Bridge was renamed for Koch in 2011, but no one calls the bridge by the new name. Would ‘Koch Boulevard’ or ‘Koch Avenue’ undergo the same unused fate if people still preferred ‘7th Avenue South?’
I wondered why the section between West 11th Street and Perry Street was chosen as ‘Jane Jacobs Way’ until I discovered that the house she owned is located mid-block at 555 Hudson Street. The White Horse Tavern, founded in 1880, remains the only establishment that existed from the time Jacobs lived there. For 137 years, it has personified the culture of life in the West Village. So, if there ever is a movement to replace ‘7th Avenue South’ with a less confusing name, I suggest ‘White Horse Way.’ Perhaps one day in the future, people will say, “Let’s meet for drinks at Caliente Cab, at the south east corner of White Horse Way and Bleecker Street.”
Works for me.