Talk about McGuinness Boulevard has been borderline ubiquitous as of late due to the proposed DOT redesign and subsequent chatter both for and against from Make McGuinness Safe and Keep McGuinness Moving parties, respectively. However, the street at the center of the controversy (a controversy that includes three deaths and nearly 400 injuries over the past decade) didn’t always go by its present (and infamous, depending on who you ask) name. In fact, it wasn’t even a boulevard at first, but merely a humble street.
Originally, the expanse was called Oakland Street, and was the only north-south street other than Manhattan Avenue that stretched to Newtown Creek. In the mid 1950s, the Pulaski Bridge was built, which resulted in the widening of Oakland Street to a six-lane divided highway (the setup we’re familiar with today) to connect the Pulaski to the BQE.
The name remained Oakland Street until 1963, when then-Councilman Joseph T. Sharkey presented a bill to change the name to McGuinness Boulevard (an idea spearheaded by Alpha Republican Club president Salvatore Tortorici), immortalizing the late alderman, district leader, county sheriff, and assistant borough commissioner Peter J. McGuinness, a local legend often dubbed the “King of Greenpoint” who proudly referred to our little neighborhood as the “Garden Spot of the World.” McGuinness is actually the reason for the G train, which, regardless of your feelings about its service, is instrumental in connecting Greenpoint to greater Brooklyn and LIC.
Within a week, the bill was passed unanimously by the Greenpoint Civic Council and the street was officially renamed in 1964. And thus, the arterial as we know it today (kind of) was born.