By SAM ROBERTS
Juan Rodriguez is not a household name — not yet, at least. In fact, the name has been so lost to history that people cannot agree even on how to spell it. Nonetheless, one version will soon grace street signs on three miles of Broadway in Upper Manhattan, and the honor may prompt a debate about when to start celebrating New York City’s 400th birthday.
Who was Juan Rodriguez? That’s not certain, either, but enough agreement has emerged that Rodriguez, a native of what is now the Dominican Republic, was the first non-Indian to settle in New York that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signed legislation on Tuesday to co-name Broadway in Rodriguez’s honor from 159th Street in Washington Heights to 218th Street in Inwood. Both neighborhoods have heavily Dominican populations. Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (no relation, apparently, to Juan) sponsored the legislation.
In 1613, Juan (or Jan or Joao) Rodriguez (or Rodrigues) appears to have accompanied Thijs Mossel, a Dutch sea captain, on the vessel Jonge Tobias from San Domingo, now known as Santo Domingo. Mossel returned to the Netherlands, while Rodriguez was marooned in what became New York (on either Governors Island or Manhattan) or more likely decided on his own to remain.