By Bill Parry
More than 150 Sunnyside residents attended a street co-naming Saturday to honor Lily Gavin, a beloved community leader with strong political ties who died in July 2016 at the age of 85.
The street outside her Dazies Restaurant, located at 39-41 Queens Blvd., is now known as “Lillian ‘Lily’ Gavin Place” and elected officials from western Queens were effusive in their praise.
“Lily Gavin was a Sunnyside icon who touched the lives of virtually every person in this neighborhood,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “For over four decades, she served this community selflessly, championing its businesses and its people. From the dinner tables at Dazies, to the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, to the Sunnyside Flag Day Parade, which she organized through the Kiwanis Club, Lily Gavin was a tireless community advocate who was always working to make this neighborhood a better place. By renaming the street adjacent to Dazies in Lily’s honor, we are forever recognizing all that she accomplished for this neighborhood and her status as an iconic Sunnysider.”
One of Gavin’s closest friends was Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Long Island City) who became the youngest woman elected to state office in 1984.
“The loss of the great and irreplaceable Lily Gavin will be felt in our hearts forever. This street renaming is a touching tribute on how best to remember Lily as a civic leader, a wonderful individual who always had a smile for those in trouble, an ear to all who needed someone to understand their problems and who never declined a needy cause. But most importantly Lily was my friend and friend to all who wanted to make Sunnyside better,” Nolan said. “I learned from Lily and sought her wisdom many times over. Her advice, her inspiration, her brilliance, her beauty, her drive and her incredible personality were always phenomenal. I will miss her more than I can ever say.”
She was also a key figure in the Queens Democratic Party at a time of turmoil. U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), her friend and confidant for 32 years, eulogized Gavin at her funeral at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Forest Hills. Crowley told how Gavin held the party together from collapsing after the Donald Manes bribery scandal in 1986, when the five-time borough president resigned and killed himself days later.
“For decades, Lily Gavin’s presence was felt throughout the Sunnyside community and beyond,” Crowley said. “She was a dear friend, mentor, and a stable presence during a time of transition and change for the Queens Democratic Party. Today, our borough is stronger because of her. This street co-naming is a fitting tribute to someone whose generosity and wisdom helped everyone she came in contact with. I thank Council Member Van Bramer for ushering this effort in the City Council to ensure Lily’s legacy won’t be forgotten.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr