When I first started poring over NYC street atlases in the 1970s, I was perplexed while fingering my dogeared Bronx Hagstrom because one of the streets in Soundview, just east of the Bronx River, was spelled Fteley. That had to be a misprint. No word begins with “FT”!

Which leads me to English orthography and spelling trends. Typically, English does not begin words with two consonants; the exception is with digraphs such as bl, br, ch, cr, dr, pr, pl, sl, st and more; these consonants’ sounds go together to produce one sound. Put simply, sometimes words will begin with two consonants that don’t jibe, such as cnidarian, bdellium, or pneumonia, but in cases like that the initial letter is usually silent. English has other quirks, such as a tendency not to end words with the letter “j,” which is usually rendered “dge” at ends of words except in loanwords like haj. I could go on with this, but you get the idea. 

Another example of this sort of thing is Mets pitcher Robert Gsellman, who says it Ga-ZELL-min.

After awhile after looking at several maps, I ascertained this was no misprint and the name of the street was indeed spelled Fteley and later, I found out it’s pretty much pronounced as spelled, “fa-TEL-lee.” But what a strange name! I’d bet that no other place name in the world, or perhaps even word in any language, begins with “ft” without a vowel separating the two consonants.


Fteley Avenue houses

It turns out the explanation for the name is somewhat unique, as well. There are groups of streets in Brooklyn named for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, NYC mayors in the NE Bronx, and even classical composers and astronauts in Staten Island. In Soundview, the streets are named for civil engineers! According to John McNamara in History in Asphalt, Alphonse Fteley (1837–1903) was chief designer of the upstate New Croton Dam, which helps supply NYC with its drinking water. Fteley was a French immigrant and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery. 

“Comment … as you see fit” kevinjudewalsh@gmail.com


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2 Responses to FTELEY AVENUE, Soundview

  1. andy says:

    Thank you, Kevin and FNY, for answering a question I’ve been asking since 1974. That year, I had a job that required a daily drive between Flushing, Queens and Nyack, NY. On the return trip, I always used the Bronx River Parkway south to the Cross Bronx to the Whitestone Bridge. Where the two highways intersect the transition between them requires, even today, a tortuous ramp and short stretch along the Cross Bronx service road, where one crosses Fteley Ave before entering the Cross Bronx itself. I always wondered about the origin of the name, although I did know how to pronounce it. Was worth waiting 43 years to find out!

  2. bboy says:

    I actually grew up in one of these houses in this photo! This is 1400 block

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