Section of Mermaid Avenue renamed to honor Woody Guthrie

Musical memories: Arlo and Nora Guthrie gathered with local pols to remember Woody Guthrie’s life on Mermaid Ave, where he lived for seven years.
Photo by Erica Price

This land is his land!

City officials renamed a block of Mermaid Avenue between West 35th and 36th streets “Woody Guthrie Way” on Saturday, commemorating the late folk singer’s deep ties to the Brooklyn’s Sodom by the Sea.

“Coney Island was our family spot, so for Coney to recognize Woody as theirs was really special,” said Guthrie’s granddaughter, Anna Canoni. “The sounds and streets of Coney Island are part of our DNA.”

Guthrie moved to Mermaid Avenue in 1943, where he lived with his family for seven years — longer than any of his other New York City abodes. During his seven-year stay, the 1940s folk legend wrote around 150 songs, many of which detailed his love for the People’s Playground.

“Blintzes and cheeses, knishes and spam. Go Coney Island, roll on the sand,” goes one of Guthrie’s odes to the People’s Playground.

The family moved to Kingsboro, Queens after their stay in Coney Island. In 1967, Guthrie passed away at age 55 from complications of Huntington’s disease.

During a ceremony organized by Councilman Mark Treyger debuting the new street sign, thirty members of the Guthrie family gathered to remember the folk icon. Attendees traded memories, and Guthrie’s son, Arlo Guthrie — known for his 18-minute protest song “Alice’s Restaurant” — sang a tribute to his father, before Nora and Arlo unveiled the street sign.

“The hope is that people walking around Coney will see the sign and look him up,” said Canoni, who hoped the sign would raise awareness about her grandfather’s connection to the area.

And for many of Guthrie’s family members, the event felt like coming home.

“[Coney Island’s beach] is where I learned to swim when I was about two,” said Nora, who was crowned as the Queen of the 37th annual Mermaid Parade later on Saturday. Her brother, Arlo, was crowned King.

“It’s home. Not just the apartment we lived in, but the street itself,” Nora added. “That’s where the life was, that’s where the food was, and the people, and the conversations, and the “hellos” [were]… and I love it.”

Reach reporter Rose Adams at radams@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–8306.
Arlo and Nora Guthrie, two of Woody Guthrie’s children, unveil the sign for “Woody Guthrie Way,” which honors their father’s contributions to the neighborhood.
Photo by Erica Price

More from Around New York