By Mark Hallum
The late Lily Gavin remained on the minds of civic leaders last week as a new sign with fresh lighting illuminated the 46th Street arch in Sunnyside.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and members of the business improvement district recalled the contributions made by Gavin, a popular business owner and community organizer, to put the western Queens neighborhood on the map.
“[Gavin] was and remains a legend in our neighborhood and it was folks like Lily and Luke Adams and so many other leaders who have since left us who were not only responsible for being part of the civic leadership of this neighborhood 35 to 40 years ago but erecting this sign and maintaining the sign for many years,” Van Bramer said at the July 26 event. “This is seemingly a small accomplishment. It’s not a $10 million project, but it is going to be significant. One of those small victories where folks come off the 7 train, or maybe just passing, and they’re going to look down and see a beautiful light.”
Van Bramer allocated $15,000 to the Sunnyside Shines BID to organize the effort to have a exact replica of the original sign created and affixed with new LED lights that change colors for different events and is controlled by a hand-held remote.
Jaime-Faye Bean, the executive director of Sunnyside Shines, said the sign would be lit up for the first time in rainbow colors, a belated cheers to LGBT Pride Month.
“It’s nice to always look back on the legacy of people that came before us that helped us along,” Keriba Gavin, Lily Gavin’s daughter, said while recalling her mother’s work to have parts of the neighborhood rezoned so that buildings could rise more than just the normal two to three stories to allow for more housing.
“The arch was originally put up by Lily Gavin, who was so special in this community. There was not a civil, social or business organization that she did not have a huge impact upon. I think her spirit is with us very much today as we relight the arch,” Bean said.
“However, times have changed and we tonight we will be lighting the arch in rainbow colors,” he said. “[Gavin] wanted there to be a gateway to the neighborhood and really advocated for this.”
The original sign was damaged by corrosion, according to Bean, and had to be scrapped altogether.
The older Gavin was instrumental in having the Sunnyside Arch erected in 1983 after she opened Dazies Restaurant, at 39-41 Queens Blvd., in the early 1970s.
Keriba Gavin still runs Dazies since her mother’s death in July 2016 at the age of 85.
Gavin also served as president of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall