3. Major Deegan

Major Deegan road sign, one of many NYC place names taken from a real person
Photo by Jeffrey Bratspies

The Major Deegan Expressway is named after William Francis Deegan, a man who came in contact with many other people who have NYC place names named after themselves throughout his life. For one, he studied architecture at the Cooper Institute, named after Peter Cooper. He then served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under General George Goethals of the Goethals Bridge. While in the service, he “put his architectural training to use by supervising the construction of army bases in and around New York.”

Once his service was completed, Deegan became an advocate for veterans. He successfully persuaded President Harding to build new hospitals around New York, pushed “businesses to hire ex-servicemen, the City to provide housing and the Veterans Bureau to offer better treatment at medical facilities.” He went on to serve multiple public offices throughout his short life including Tenement House Commissioner and Chair of the Mayor’s Committee for Welcoming Distinguished Guests. Upon his death at the age of 49, 3,000 mourners came out to pay their respects. In 1937, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia (another NYC place name) renamed the road connecting the Triborough Bridge and the Grand Concourse in the Bronx to Major William F. Deegan Boulevard. The road was widened by Robert Moses in preparation for the 1940 World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows, Queens. The Major Deegan Expressway, now part of Interstate 87, officially opened in 1956.