There's been a lot of hue and cry in recent weeks about successful attempts to rename New York streets that unwittingly honored historical scoundrels (Brooklyn's Corbin Street, named after an anti-Semetic developer) and quashed attempts to rename streets after contemporary figures who, with time, may or may not be viewed as historical scoundrels (the failed bid to honor black activist Sonny Carson). But it the City spent all its time establishing the virtues of each person remembered with a street sign, nobody would ever pick up the garbage or fix those flying manholes. Most every unnumbered street pays homage to some rascal. My pet peeve, for instance, are streets that are named after prominent developers. (Hoyt Street has got to go! Screw you, Charles Hoyt, real-estate speculator scum!)
One of my favorite road names that has so far escaped public outcry is Kenmare Street, deep in the heart of Little Chitaly.
"Big Tim" Sullivan, one of the most powerful Tammany Hall grandees to ever lord it over the city, had the gall to have the avenue named after the town in Ireland where his dear old mama was born. A slum kid born in the notorious Five Points area, Sullivan controlled New York politics and vice for most of the late-19th and early-20th centuries, his hands in everything from gambling to extortion to prostitution. Like all such Tammany leaders, he was madly popular with his constituents, who were kept quiet with drink and free turkeys.
Tim didn't end well. His body harbored syphilis which sent his health south until he was judged incompetent and committed to a sanitarium in 1912. He escaped a year later, went missing for two weeks, and was finally found dead on the railroad tracks in the Eastchester area of the Bronx. He died with at least six illegitimate children to carry on his example. I imagine some of them had children, too. Maybe a few still live in New York and get all teary-eyed when they look up at the Kenmare sign.
· Kenmare Street [New York Songlines]