2017-10-25 / Features

Sunnyside Street Renamed In Honor Of Lily Gavin

BY THOMAS COGAN


Kenny Kerim (Lily Gavin’s son, second from l.), Council Member Brian Barnwell, Assembly Member Catherine Nolan, family member Kerri Kerim-Soldano, NYS Senator Michael Gianaris, City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and family member Raymond Kerim helped unveil the street sign co-named for Lily Gavin at 40th Street and Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside. Kenny Kerim (Lily Gavin’s son, second from l.), Council Member Brian Barnwell, Assembly Member Catherine Nolan, family member Kerri Kerim-Soldano, NYS Senator Michael Gianaris, City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and family member Raymond Kerim helped unveil the street sign co-named for Lily Gavin at 40th Street and Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside.

The long-planned street-naming ceremony for the late Sunnyside community activist and owner of Dazies Restaurant, Lily Gavin, was held on October 21.

Under a sunny sky a considerable crowd gathered on the sidewalk at the corner of 40th Street and Queens Boulevard for the renaming to “Lillian ‘Lily’ Gavin Place.”

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer began his speech saying, “Is there any doubt whatever that Lily Gavin brought the weather today?”


Photo Tony Barsamian Photo Tony Barsamian He called Gavin “a fierce, strong woman” who had friendships in Sunnyside that lasted for decades. She was involved in many organizations and with several institutions, from the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce to LaGuardia Community College to the Sunnyside Flag Day parade, which Gavin organized through the Sunnyside Kiwanis Club. With a civic spirit and an excellent restaurant it was inevitable she would make Dazies a meeting place for politicians for discussion about a local crisis, as it was during the Con Edison blackout of mid-July 2006.

“Gavin made Sunnyside a great neighborhood,” the Council Member said, “and it’s up to us to keep it that way.” “By honoring her today we are honoring the entire community,” Van Bramer concluded.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz was impressed by the fact that many politicians “felt comfortable going to Dazies.” She said her civic involvement was amazing and if it hadn’t been for Lily, many friendships in the community would not have been made. State Assembly Member Cathy Nolan was also present as well as Council Member Brian Barnwell and former Borough President Claire Shulman.

NYS Senator Michael Gianaris said that Lily and Luke Adams, for years the Executive Director of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, which had its meetings the second Tuesday of each month at Dazies, were the ones to see if you were after the lowdown on the local area. Former Chairman of Community Board 2 Joseph Conley said Lily could make you feel you were a community member even if you weren’t. But it’s not that she was a softie, he said, because “She could tell you to go to hell – but with a smile, which could make me feel I would enjoy going.”

Before he spoke, Kenny Kerim warned that he might get emotional about his mother, whom he called “the Lily of Sunnyside.” Kerim gave a brief bio of his mom. Born Lillian Lyri Viesel in 1931 in New Jersey, she was the daughter of Albanian immigrants and one of five children. Becoming a wife at 18 through an arranged marriage, she ultimately had five children herself. The time came when the marriage was no more but the children remained and she brought them up alone. She worked as a waitress in several Queens restaurants, coming at last to one on the north side of Queens Boulevard near 40th Street called Maisie’s. Eventually she bought it in partnership with several other investors whom she later bought out. In the process, Maisie’s became Daisie’s and finally Dazies.

It was at a ceremony at the New York Botanical Garden in late 2015, when, as Gavin was going to receive an award from Congress Member Joseph Crowley, she took a fall and broke an ankle.

Kerim expressed special appreciation of Nolan and Van Bramer, saying that they came to him after Lily’s death and pledged they would make a strong effort to have a street sign dedicated to her put up on the corner nearest the restaurant.

Nolan observed, “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.”

It was time for the uncovering of the street sign, wrapped in brown paper just below the 40th Street sign. The Sunnyside Drum Corps, who presence exemplifies the Chamber of Commerce’s description, “A Small Town in the Big City” gave a drum roll as a family member pulled the cover off and the sign declaring “Lillian ‘Lily’ Gavin Place” was revealed. Kerim was presented with a second sign.

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