Members of the Irish-American Athletic Club posed for the photographer in 1909 on the street that will soon be renamed in its honor. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE AMERICAN IRISH HISTORICAL SOCIETY AND THE WINGED FIST ORGANIZATION.
A stretch of road in Woodside, Queens, that has a special place in Irish-American history is to be renamed by the order of New York City Council.
Olympic gold-medalists and NYPD officers Martin Sheridan, of Bohola, Co. Mayo, John Flanagan, from County Limerick, and County Tipperary native Matt McGrath were among the scores of athletes who achieved national and international success when based in the neighborhood’s Celtic Park stadium during its pre-World War I heyday.
“I’m delighted that the city is making this modest effort to recognize the athletes of the Irish-American Athletic Club,” said Ian McGowan, who has spearheaded the campaign to co-name 43rd Street, between 48th Avenue and 50th Avenue, “Winged Fist Way.”
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The new name references the symbol used by the Irish-American Athletic Club, which was founded as an alternative to the exclusive and discriminatory New York Athletic Club.
The proposal was submitted by local Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “His support made it happen,” McGowan said. He cited also the work done by Van Bramer staffer Joe Kenton.
McGowan has had less success with Celtic Park Apartments, a complex built on the two-square-block site of the old stadium. The board of the co-operative where he lives himself turned down his plan to place a commemorative plaque on its outer wall. However, Deirdre Feerick, the local Democratic leader, has been elected to the board as part of what he sees as a power shift. “She’s a good friend of mine,” he said. “It’s promising. Hopefully the other board members will consider.”
Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, Congressman Joe Crowley and State Senator Mike Gianaris, alongside the United Forties Civic Association and Queens Community Board 2, have also been supportive of the efforts to commemorate the IAAC. McGowan said that the unveiling of the street sign for Winged Fist Way will be held off until early March to coincide with the St. Patrick’s Parade in Sunnyside and Woodside and a 5K race he and his supporters are organizing.
“Holding the events close together at that time of year will maximize publicity,” he said.
For more information go to www.wingedfist.org.