Names of New York:
Discovering the City’s Past,
Present, and Future Through Its Place-Names

A book launch and conversation

In place-names lie stories. That’s the truth that animates Joshua Jelly-Schapiro’s new book—a journey through the names of New York City’s streets and parks, boroughs and bridges, playgrounds and neighborhoods, which becomes a profound meditation on the power of naming to shape experience and our sense of place. Jelly-Schapiro traces the ways in which native Lenape, Dutch settlers, British invaders, and successive waves of immigrants have left their marks on the city’s map. He interviews the last living speakers of Lenape, visits the harbor’s forgotten islands, and meets with linguists who study the estimated 800 languages now spoken in New York, a city whose recent arrivals continue to find new ways to make its neighborhoods their own.

In this special conversation hosted by Jazmine Hughes of the New York Times, Jelly-Schapiro will be joined by musician and urban explorer Will Butler to discuss the infinity of places and stories the city contains—and how the names that stick to its streets can function not only as portals to explore the past, but also as a means to reimagine what’s possible now.

Signed copies of Names of New York are available for purchase in our online store.

Joshua Jelly-Schapiro is a geographer and writer whose books include Island People: The Caribbean and the World and (with Rebecca Solnit) Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas. A regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, his work has also appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, and Harper’s magazine, among many other publications. He teaches at NYU and is a scholar-in-residence at the Institute for Public Knowledge. In 2019, he served as Pioneer Works’ inaugural resident in Narrative Arts, where the Names of New York project (@NamesofNY) began.

Jazmine Hughes is a Metro reporter for the New York Times and a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine. Her work has also appeared in The New YorkerNew YorkThe New Republic, and The Hairpin, where she also worked as a contributing editor. She is a 2020 recipient of the American Society of Magazine Editors NEXT Award, for journalists under 30. You can find her at @jazzedloon

Will Butler is a Grammy-winning and Oscar-nominated musician who has released three albums of his own music (including, most recently, 2020’s Generations), and five more as a core member of Arcade Fire. He lives in Brooklyn with his family, and recently earned his MA in public policy from Harvard. He’s online at @butlerwills

The Pioneer Works Broadcast is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Program in Public Understanding of Science and Technology, bridging the two cultures of science and the arts.

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