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Stretch Of Broadway Renamed For Man Believed To Be City’s First Immigrant

Juan Rodriguez Arrived In 1613 From Present-Day Dominican Republic
Juan Rodriguez Way

A stretch of Broadway in Washington Heights and Inwood has been co-named Juan Rodriguez Way to honor the man believed to be the city’s first immigrant. (Credit: Alex Silverman/WCBS 880)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Three miles of Broadway in Upper Manhattan have a new honorary name honoring a man believed to be the first immigrant in New York City history – from the present-day Dominican Republic.

The street is still known as Broadway, but it now has an additional name from 159th Street in Washington Heights to 218th Street in Inwood. That name is Juan Rodriguez Way, WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported.

A ceremony for the renaming was held Wednesday in Mitchel Square Park at 167th Street and Broadway – a space named for Mayor John Purroy Mitchel, the first New York City mayor with Latin heritage.

Mitchel’s name may be familiar to those who know the city’s history, but Rodriguez’s almost certainly is not. But that will change, said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

“People will walk by their street sign, and they will say, ‘Who was Juan Rodriguez?’” Quinn said.

The answer is a new first chapter to the city’s history, uncovered by researchers at the City University of New York. Rodriguez was a sailor who appears to have accompanied Dutch sea captain Thijs Mossel on a 1613 voyage from present-day Santo Domingo, the New York Times explained.

While Mossel returned to the Netherlands, Rodriguez ended up in New York – either in Manhattan or on Governors Island, the newspaper reported.

In announcing the renaming of a stretch of Broadway in two neighborhoods known for the Dominican population, city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said it is time to “acknowledge that the Dominican community got here first.”

“To honor someone who didn’t get the credit until now – a couple hundred years past,” de Blasio said.

Rodriguez was believed to have set up a trading post in New York when he arrived in 1613, 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported. That was 12 years before the Dutch arrived, and would make this year New York City’s 400th birthday.

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