BY SERGEY KADINSKY
Forgotten NY correspondent
While visiting a family member at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center at East 68th Street and York Avenue, my wife asked me whether the green expanse of land across the avenue was a park. I replied that it is the campus of Rockefeller University and has been so since John D. Rockefeller purchased the parcel in 1903.
Yet my wife is partially correct. If one goes back to 1850, the stretch of East River Waterfront from East 63rd Street to East 75th Street was known as Jones Wood, a popular picnicking ground and early rival to Central Park. And prior to that it was known as the Louvre Farm, owned by revolutionary General Steuben.
Along with the privately owned Jones Wood Garden (a jointly-owned backyard of townhouses) and the more recent Jones Wood Foundry (a tavern on East 76th Street) the Rockefeller University campus is perhaps the last remnant of Jones Wood. Back in 1853, it nearly became the designated greensward for Manhattan but instead the honor went to the land in the middle that became Central Park. From that point, Jones Wood shrunk in size as developers swooped in. By 1903, the largest undeveloped parcel went to Rockefeller University, an early anchor of a future row of other waterfront medical facilities that would soon join it.
Along with the former Jones Wood park, the stretch of FDR Drive between East 63rd Street and East 80th Street once carried the name Marie Curie Avenue. Officially bestowed in 1935, the moniker is a tribute to the medical identity of the neighborhood and as a nod to the city’s sizable Polish community.
1960 Bromley atlas plate
With the construction of FDR Drive in 1940, signs indicating Marie Curie Avenue disappeared and the name faded from maps as well. Today, the only woman on Manhattan island who has her full name on a street (an official name, not an honorific co-naming) is revolutionary fighter Margaret Corbin.