downtownexpress.com
Volume 20 Issue 6 | June 22 - 28, 2007

Youth

Students research Downtown, where the streets have names

City Councilmember Alan Gerson asked middle school students Downtown to select a Lower Manhattan street and research its origin, inviting them to suggest a new name. Gerson commended 13 students from I.S. 131 and Shuang Wen for their essays last week in a City Hall ceremony. He said he was surprised at how much he learned about the streets in his district. Here is a sample:

Elaine Yuan
I.S. 131 (8th grade)
Mosco St.

It’s Chinese New Year! You can walk on Mott Street away from the busy and crowded Canal Street. The streets are filled with lots of people, floating parachutes trying not to get caught, colorful confetti and glittering streamers. Oh! You notice a church. Above the doorway are signs with Chinese characters, most likely meaning good luck or Happy Chinese New Year. And then you notice a small, quiet sloped street next to it. From under a lamppost, you look up curiously trying to find the name of this street. Written in capitalized, white letters on a metal, green sign, the sign says Mosco Street. You start to walk down the hill, looking left and right, taking in your surroundings. Immediately to your left you spot a small abandoned red stand. Hong Kong Cakes stands out in green paint on red. You look forward, seeing a few trees with beautiful green leaves and a few more shops. There are bits of streamers and confetti littered here and there. A smell floats gently around until it finds its into your nose. What could the smell be? You realize the answer as soon as you see the sign labeled Fried Dumplings. Next door, Bangkok Center Grocery displays various sauces and exotic ingredients behind glass windows. Right across the street is Dynasty Arts. Put on view, some antique furniture is interesting to passers-by and two bronze lions are welcoming passers-by in. When you reach the end of the street, you see a park in front of you, Sam’s at the corner to your right and a funeral home on the other corner to your left. Some confetti gets blown by the wind down the street and stops are at your feet.

This is what Mosco Street looks like now around Chinese New Year. Oh what I described above and a pizza shop in construction, a few apartment buildings and plus, a few garbage cans. Although it seems like there’s not much on this street, Mosco Street is a remnant of a forgotten past. Mosco Street was neither named after a person or has significance, but has a pretty important place in urbanization, in my opinion. Don’t believe me? Doubting your “tour guide?”

Well back then, Cross Street was renamed Park Street in the mid 1800’s and renamed Mosco in Street in 1982. In the mid 1800’s, Cross Street was at the heart of New York’s most recognized slum, Five Points. Five Points was named for the five-corner intersection of Worth, Baxter, and Cross Streets that today is partly covered by the southwestern corner of Columbus Park. The poorest immigrants, especially Irish Americans and blacks lived in this area where due to hardships, population density, illnesses, infant and child mortality, unemployment, violent crime and other problems occurred. Gangs, such as The Bowery Boys, The Roach Guards, and The Shirt Tails formed, leading to even more problems. What is left of Park/Cross Street is now Mosco Street, a single block between Mulberry and Mott Streets, east of Columbus Park.

I think New York City should rename Mosco Street. I think that it should be renamed Cross Street or Park Street because Cross and Park Streets have a lot of important history behind them that should be preserved to remind the people of one of the important aspects of growth in the United States.

I’m not sure I would name a street if I were given the opportunity. I mean, what would you name a street? Naming it after me would be a bit strange…Yuan Street. Yup, definitely strange. And a street with a significance. Hmmm…ugh, this isn’t helping. Well, if I had this chance of naming a street, I guess I would have to pass. Choosing this street name isn’t the easiest task to complete.

So this is the history of a pretty unfamiliar street to you. Maybe you can find Mosco Street while you are in Chinatown. Perhaps you can buy five fried dumplings for a dollar and stop by Bangkok Center Grocery for some dessert. While you’re there, why not look at what Dynasty Arts has to offer. You could even walk to Five Points, which looks like it has three points instead of five. Amazing how much a place can change throughout history.


Ryan Huang
Shuang Wen (7th grade)
Fulton St.

The street I’m doing is called Fulton Street. I’m doing this street because out of all the listed streets, this is the one I have never heard of so I feel like finding out some information on it. Another reason is, after searching for hours on all the listed streets, this is the one that gave the most information. I also want to know why it has such a name. What’s Fulton? A name? I’m going to out find right now.

Fulton Street is located in Lower Manhattan. It is at New York City’s Financial District which is a few blocks north of Wall Street. Fulton Street stretched from the World Trade Center (or the location of it since it’s not there anymore) all the way to South Street Seaport. That is a pretty long way.

Fulton Street was named after a famous engineer named Robert Fulton. He’s a engineer that specialized in making and inventing steam ships in the United States of America. Robert Fulton soon made ferries that can cross the East River in order to get to Brooklyn. But the street is not the only thing that was named after Robert Fulton. A fish store named Fulton Fish Market was also named after him. It used to be near the South Street Seaport. But now it’s at Hunts Point in the Bronx.

The New York State kept this name because Robert Fulton did a good job making ferries and stuff that can cross water/East River. It was to honor him (I think).

If I had the opportunity to name the street, I would give it a weird name. But I would still include Fulton in it. But I would make it something like Ferry Fulton, or why not Robert Street? Why does it have to be Fulton? Why does it have to be his last name? Why can’t it be his first name? So if I could name the street, I have 3 in mind. Robert Street, Fulton Ferry Street, or just Fulton Street. Just like today.


Mei Chan
I.S. 131 (8th grade)
Mott St.

Mott Street….for those who are well acquainted with this road, you may or may not have thought about its long forgotten past, or how it came to be standing now in the midst of a generally crowded environment. Have you ever given a thought of how the name Mott managed to unite with this particular street? What about the earlier events that at one time took place there in a time before yours? Well, truth be told, Mott Street is not as simple and uninteresting as it may look. In fact, it has a rather interesting background behind it.

Mott Street was established in the late 1700s and was formerly part of an unpleasant neighborhood known as “The Five Points”. It is commonly known as Manhattan’s “Main Street” (although unofficial) and is located in lower Manhattan from North to South. The oldest tenement, constructed at an estimated time of 1825 is situated on this very street. Furthermore, at one period of time the topic of churches seemed to be important on this lane. Examples of churches that had set foot on Mott include “Zion English Lutheran Church,” “Mott Street Church,” “Welsh Bethlehem Church,” “Union Church,” and possibly others. However, a large amount of those churches have been eliminated, thus, leaving no trace of them ever being there as of today.

Although it is recognized as Mott at the moment, its original names were Winne Street, Wynne Street as well as Old Street. According to certain resources, this lively, busy highway received its new name from a man named Joseph Mott. He existed before the American Revolution and worked as a exceedingly successful butcher. He also had a tavern under his possession located on what is now known as 143rd Street and 8th Avenue. This tavern of his had been regarded as significant due to the fact that it had been used as General Washington’s headquarters during the event of the Revolutionary War. With this much information people reasoned that the fact that Joseph’s tavern had served on an important occasion in American history might have played a factor on having the street named under his name. Otherwise, little can be said about the origin of Mott Street’s label.

Mott Street played a fairly important role in Manhattan’s history. Since the road apparently carries quite a lot of stories behind it, I believe it would be wisest to preserve its name. After all, it had been attached to that single name for a long time now. Everyone speaks of it as “Mott”, and nobody appears to have a problem concerning that. Moreover, changing it might interfere with its past, seeing as a new name won’t genuinely represent what it had been through. Therefore, doing such a deed would partially erase a fragment of its history, wouldn’t it?

In any case, if I were to be offered the chance to provide a name for a street, I would without a doubt give it one that symbolizes what kind of neighborhood it lives upon and what lies along the street. In addition, I would consider having the name indicate some of the early noteworthy events that once took place there. Nevertheless, a name should in some way represent a street based on its past, present, or even the future. In my perspective, a suitable street name would be simply that.





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