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Celebrate the women New York (should be) named for at the Transit Museum

DOWNTOWN — On the street signs, subway stations, neighborhoods and buildings of New York, the names of historically significant men are everywhere. Bleecker Street. Astor Place. Lincoln Center. Even Downtown Brooklyn’s Schermerhorn Street is named for 18th-century Dutchman Peter Schermerhorn, best remembered for having owned a large rope factory

What would it be like to live in a city where everything was named for notable women instead? 

That’s the question posed by the City of Women map, currently on display at the Transit Museum’s “Navigating New York” exhibit. The map was co-created by geographer and writer Joshua Jelly-Schapiro and prominent feminist critic and essayist Rebecca Solnit, author of “Men Explain Things to Me.” 

Together, Solnit and Jelly-Schapiro wrote “Nonstop Metropolis,” a book of imaginative essays and maps, including the City of Women map, that won the Municipal Art Society’s prestigious Brendan Gill Prize in 2017. 

The museum will unveil an updated version of the map Sept. 19 during a conversation with Jelly-Schapiro and New York Times contributor Julie Scelfo. The discussion will explore the significance of place-names and challenge the status-quo of the world’s overwhelmingly male toponyms. 

The City of Women map re-imagines the city’s subway system as a landscape devoted to its Great Women, where Lorimer Street is replaced with Barbra Streisand Street, Astoria Boulevard becomes Ethel Merman Boulevard and 18th-century attorney John Chambers is ousted from lower Manhattan by Beyoncé. 

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Emma Lazarus and Zora Neal Hurston get an overdue shout-out as well. 

The project was intended to pay “homage to some of the great and significant women of New York City in the places where they lived, worked, competed, went to school, danced, painted, wrote, rebelled, organized, philosophized, taught and made names for themselves,” Solnit said in a statement. 

The updated version of the City of Women map will add more than 80 names and take into account some of the subway system’s major changes in recent years, including the extension of the 7 line to Hudson Yards and the opening of the Second Avenue Subway. 

The conversation between Scelfo and Jelly-Schapiro and the map unveiling will take place at the Transit Museum on Sept. 19 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $15, or $10 for museum members. For tickets and info, go to http://bit.ly/2lX3cRD.  

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