Queens’ Old Street Nomenclature Lives On — Sort Of


    New York City instituted Queens’ street numbering system, in which east-west avenues increase in number from north to south and north-south streets from west to east, around 1915. It was gradually worked into most neighborhoods during the 1920s, though some neighborhoods with a lot of diagonal streets like Elmhurst and Flushing got to keep their old names.

    Though most streets got numbers, their old names pop up here and there, preserved in apartment building names or subway stations. Above is Grand Court, an apartment at 30th Avenue near Steinway Street (the piano manufacturing family has always had a street named for it in Long Island City, taking the place of 39th Street). When it was built, 30th Avenue was called Grand Avenue. This illustrates a situation that the numbering system was supposed to solve: when avenues in different neighborhoods have the same name. There’s also a Grand Avenue, originally called Grand Street, entering Queens from Brooklyn, crossing Newtown Creek, ending at Queens Boulevard and Broadway in Williamsburg. Giving Grand Avenue a number in LIC was supposed to alleviate such confusion. The plan has had mixed results.



    Bliss Street was named for Neziah Bliss, a 19th-Century landowner and entrepreneur who laid out the towns of Greenpoint in Brooklyn and Sunnyside in Queens. When the number system came in, it was renamed 46th Street, but the old name survives at the elevated #7 train station. A number of subway stations have a dual name like this — when the stations were first built from 1915-1935, oldtimers knew the streets by their names.

    Kevin Walsh’s website is Forgotten New York; his book of the same name is also available.

    What's Happening