By Victoria Merlino
A couple of weeks ago, the Eagle asked its readers: How do you pronounce Roosevelt Avenue? Rose-a-velt or Ruse-a-velt?
The question was more polarizing than initially thought.
“It’s “Rose-a-velt” in English, “Ruse-a-velt” in Spanish. Don’t at me,” said City Councilmember Francisco Moya.
“But, as much I am ROSE-avelt Avenue, I'm also RUSE-a-velt Island” Twitter user Rob Roszkowski said.
Even Queens-born rapper Action Bronson seems to have settled on the Ruse-a-velt side of the debate in his song “Easy Rider.”
Out of a poll of 274 people, the Eagle found that 67 percent of people said Rose-a-velt compared to the 33 percent who said Ruse-a-velt.
Apparently, Queens didn’t always have to grapple with the Roosevelt Avenue question. A historian from the Queens Historical Society explained to the Eagle via email that Roosevelt used to be called Amity Street, and was only named after former President Theodore Roosevelt in the 1920s.
“A century ago streets in Flushing were name[d] after the Presidents. Additional streets included Lincoln and Washington Streets,” Queens Historical Society historian Jason Antos said.
Though some were fully committed to once pronunciation, others had a more pragmatic perspective, arguing that because Queens is the most diverse place in the United States, the pronunciations of one of the borough’s biggest thoroughfares should reflect that diversity.
“I say la Rusvel cuz that's how we grew up calling it 🤷🏽♀️ rusvel is home of immigrants so the pronunciation has to reflect the diversity of its community,” user Marilyn Mendoza said.
“I am really surprise[d] you are hav[ing] this conversation. Especially when 85% of the people speak 20 different dialects. Do you really expect everyone to pronounce RooseveltAve.com the exact same way? What's more important is everyone knows where it is and what it has to offer,” said user QueensBoroPlaza.
Another user, meanwhile, argued that everyone was focusing on the wrong road entirely.
“Some days it's ruse, some days it's rose. They'll pronounce it the same as the former presidents with the last name. Come on, it's Queens. The real discussion should be the van wyke,” Liz Nowak said, referring to another hotly debated name: the Van Wyck Expressway.
For those interested in New York City dialects and accents, there’s more you can discover from here. The group of CUNY professors studying New York City accents originally interviewed by the Eagle about Roosevelt Avenue suggests taking their survey on city accents to assist with their research. The research seeks to understand how New York accents are changing.