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Bill Cunningham's Favourite Street Corner Was Named In His Honour

Photo: Mike Coppola/FilmMagic/ Getty Images.
If you wanted to spot the late, great Bill Cunningham at work, there was one particular cross street in Midtown Manhattan, New York, worth loitering at: 57th Street and Fifth Avenue. Following the legendary photographer's passing in late June, many shared anecdotes of their personal encounters with Cunningham on said corner. Over 6,000 individuals signed a petition to rename it after him. Now, New York City is doing its part to honour Cunningham and his work, albeit briefly: For a week, the northeast corner of the famed intersection is being dubbed "Bill Cunningham Corner," the New York Times reports.

At 12:30 p.m. on July 6, city officials and those near and dear to the late photographer gathered at one of his favourite NYC backdrops. Chirlane McCray, the city's first lady, addressed the crowd on behalf of her husband, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and New York City. "Bill Cunningham saw the style and beauty of all of our city's citizens, capturing the looks of fashion models and bankers, grandmothers and college students with his vivid photos," she said at the press conference, which was streamed on Mayor de Blasio's Facebook page.

McCray credited the photographer for exporting one of the Big Apple's finest qualities — its unique sense of style — and for his role in democratising fashion. Furthermore, she argued, "He showed us that style isn't about fancy labels or the latest trends: It's about authenticity, it's about confidence and expression." In a statement, de Blasio called the renaming "a fitting tribute to one of New York's greats," according to AM New York.
Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images.
The New York Times' executive editor, Dean Baquet, addressed the crowd on Wednesday, speculating as to what Cunningham's reaction to the honour would be: "Because Bill was a consummate journalist who liked to put his work first, [he] would be completely flummoxed and probably a little bit humiliated by this experience, and want to go someplace and hide," he told the audience. "But because Bill loved fashion, loved New York, and loved this stretch of New York, he would also be truly humbled."

Also in attendance were John Kurdewan, Cunningham's longtime assistant (and the man behind the popular @workforbillc Instagram account); Harold Koda, former curator of the Met's Costume Institute; Nick Nicholson, who started the popular petition; and many of Cunningham's colleagues from the New York Times.

Unfortunately, the sign is expected to be taken down next week. Not all hope is lost, though: "We knew that a temporary street naming was a logical first step in the creation of a permanent memorial," Nicholson told Gothamist at the press conference. After all, officially changing the name of the intersection would require a "much more lengthy legislative process," Amy Spitalnick, de Blasio communications advisor, explained to the publication. However, WWD reports that a longer-lasting tribute to Cunningham is in the works.