Kurt Vonnegut's name could soon be attached permanently to the Manhattan block where he spent most of his writing career.
Community Board 6 last week voted to rename the corner of East 48th Street and Second Avenue after one of its most famous writers (E.B. White, who for decades resided on the same street, competes for the title).
Vonnegut, who for 40 years lived on East 48th Street near Second Avenue, was a community icon, according to neighborhood residents. Vonnegut was often seen walking his dog in Dag Hammarskjold Park near the United Nations and sitting on the stoop of his townhouse, thinking, smoking, and nodding to passersby. He and his wife, photographer Jill Krementz, had a second home in Sagaponack, Long Island, but spent most of their days in Manhattan.
"Mostly I remember he'd be sitting on his bench in Dag Hammarskjold Park," the vice president of the Turtle Bay Association, Millie Margiotta, said. "Not always reading, just sitting. People would see him on the steps in front of his building or in front of Sterling Plaza, usually with his dog, Flour, or smoking."
The City Council later this month will consider an omnibus bill of 50 street co-namings, with attempts to honor such nonhousehold names as Robert Breen, Ruth Poindexter, and Daniela Notaro. Manhattan's East Side community boards, however, have sought over the years to make the street-naming honor more exclusive and to limit the number of names they send to the council to sign into law.
Vonnegut's many famous novels, such as "Slaughterhouse-Five" and "Cat's Cradle" — staple volumes for many Americans who have come of age since the 1970s — and his bond with the community make him exactly the right kind of candidate for the street-naming honor, members of Community Board 6 said.
To have a serious shot at being memorialized on a city street, nominees on the East Side must have made a lasting contribution to "the intellectual vitality of the community or the nation." They must also have shown a "significant affiliation" to the community that would display their names.
Kurt Vonnegut Way was a "no-brainer," board members said, and was almost unanimously approved. (The two board members who voted in opposition, according to the committee chairman, voted to express concern over the possibility of an "inappropriate" candidate coming before the board in the future.)
The board, which represents the East Side of Midtown and portions of the Upper East Side, has in recent years approved for renaming only Katharine Hepburn Way, on East 49th Street, and Jan Karski Way, at the corner of 37th Street and Madison Avenue near the Polish Embassy, in memory of the World War II Polish resistance fighter.
"There used to be a habit that we'd just name something after anyone who sneezed," the chairman of Community Board 6's transportation committee, Lou Sepersky, said. The casualness of the process, according to Mr. Sepersky, cheapened the honor of being memorialized on a green placard beneath a city street sign.
Vonnegut, the author of 14 novels as well as plays and essays, died on April 11 at age 84 after suffering brain injuries from a fall a few weeks earlier. His widow, Ms. Krementz, requested the street co-naming for her husband through the Turtle Bay Association. Ms. Krementz and the Turtle Bay Association are also seeking to have Vonnegut's favorite bench in Dag Hammarskjold Park named in his honor.
The council would consider approving Kurt Vonnegut Way in October if council Member Daniel Garodnick, who represents the neighborhood, brings the street renaming request before the council's Parks Committee.
"It's something I'll take a look at and give some careful thought to," Mr. Garodnick said yesterday, although he said he had not yet seen the board's resolution.
While the council usually approves the names sent by community boards, there is sometimes opposition. Speaker Christine Quinn has been blocking the renaming of a four-block stretch of Gates Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant after the radical black activist Sonny Carson. The council now is expected to address the Sonny Carson renaming issue in a separate vote from the other street names.