Woodside street renamed for late Walter McCaffrey

By Bill Parry

The life and legacy of the late Walter McCaffrey was celebrated in Woodside Saturday when the corner of 61st Street and Woodside Avenue was renamed in his honor.

Nearly 300 people watched as the sign for Walter McCaffrey Place was unveiled.

“The late Walter McCaffrey will never be forgotten,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “A Woodsider till the end, Walter never stopped advocating for his neighborhood and this district, setting a high bar for all elected officials who followed him in office.”

McCaffrey served the 26th District from 1985-2001, where he wrote landmark legislation requiring security cameras at ATMs. He was the lead sponsor of legislation banning or restricting adult establishments from residential neighborhoods and school areas.

McCaffrey died last July at age 64 after suffering from injuries received in a car accident. He left the Council in 2001 because of term limits after serving for 16 years.

“He was known as Mr. Woodside,” Borough President Melinda Katz said. “His funeral seemed like the end of an era because so much wisdom went with him.”

Katz joined a host of elected officials past and present, including former Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., who said, “Walter was planted here to tell us what we did wrong.”

U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) said, “Walter fought for the people of Queens with great passion, leaving behind a legacy of advocacy and accomplishment that improved the lives of middle-class families across the city.”

McCaffrey was also remembered for being a supporter of community organizations which still provide quality services and programs, including Woodside on the Move and Sunnyside Community Services.

“Our Center for Active Older Adults serves as a second home for over 200 seniors,” SCS Executive Director Judy Zangwill said. “We would not be able to welcome so many people were it not for Walter McCaffrey, who was instrumental in enabling us to build this center.”

Others had personal recollections of the man. Democratic District Leader John Smyth recalled that McCaffrey got him his first job in politics.

“I gave him my resume on a Monday, I interviewed with Tom Manton on Tuesday and started on Thursday,” Smyth said.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) called him a legendary figure.

“He was one of the first political leaders who schooled me in Queens politics going back to ’88,” Gianaris said.

Bill Kregler, president of the NYC Fire Marshals Benevolent Association, said, “He represents a bygone era. If this was done 30 years ago, it wouldn’t be out here in the street, it would be in a fine watering hole. That’s the kind of guy he was. He loved the FDNY and the FDNY loved him.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.