A year ago, preservationist poet and author Brad Vogel conjured an idea to get a street named for Brooklyn’s “native son” Walt Whitman for the 200th anniversary of the writer’s birth. Vogel and Karen Karbiener of the Walt Whitman Initiative, who lead the Coalition to Save Walt Whitman’s House, have been fighting an uphill battle with the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to landmark the rowhouse at 99 Ryerson Street in which Whitman wrote Leaves of Grass but they found support from local New York City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo and local organizations, including Nick Higgins at the Brooklyn Public Library, on the co-naming of the street. This past Saturday afternoon, the honorary street name was officially unveiled at the corner of DeKalb Avenue and Ryerson Street, just across from Ryerson Walk at Pratt Institute.
Photo by Brad Vogel
In advance of the ceremony, a walking tour of Whitman-related sites, the “Walt Whitman Ramble,” took place. At the ceremony, there were musical performances from Nicole Mitchell of the American Opera Project, reading by poets curated by Jason Koo of Brooklyn Poets, displays of Whitman’s books and writings, and other festivities. Vogel says, “We’re excited for the co-naming. It helps to remind people that Walt Whitman lived and emerged as America’s poet right here in the streets of Brooklyn. We still have a chance to protect his last remaining New York City home a few blocks from the co-naming site by designating it a city landmark for the benefit of future generations.” Cumbo put Whitman’s work in a global context: “Brooklyn has always brought big ideas to the world, and we’re ready to commemorate another Brooklynite whose artistic work and influence has spread globally. Walt Whitman was a cultural icon, visionary, and a true artist in every sense of the word. I am proud to see his legacy live on in my district.”
Whitman’s house at 99 Ryerson Street
Next, check out 7 places to honor Walt Whitman.