May 18, 2011 By Christian Murray
Local legislators are getting behind a plan to co-name a street that runs through the Celtic Park apartment complex in recognition of the Irish-American Athletic Club.
The new street name, which would be called Winged Fist Way, would apply to 43rd Street — between 48th and 50th Aves. The name would recognize that the Irish-American Athletic Club, which enjoyed its heydays before World War I, was headquartered where the Celtic Park apartments are today. The Winged Fist was the emblem of the club, which had a raised fist, eagle wings, shamrocks and the US flag.
The club was extremely successful, with its members winning 53 medals at the Olympic Games. Medalists included Irishmen, African-Americans and Polish-Jews. However, after WWI the club went into decline.
The battle for recognition of the club’s history began in 2007, when Ian McGowan, a resident and history buff, approached the coop board of the 750-apartment complex seeking to place a small plaque in recognition of the club on one of the buildings. The board was initially receptive to the idea and Congressman Joseph Crowley supported it; however, the board eventually denied his request arguing that the fist evoked racism.
Then the board began to cite technical reasons for the denial, such as coop regulations prohibiting placement of signs on exterior walls of the premises. (click for Winged Fist website)
But McGowan has always enjoyed strong support from the public and political leaders on this issue.
Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, in an interview Wednesday, said that she sent McGowan a letter of support for the street co-naming today, adding that “Ian [McGowan] has been an activist for the good.” State. Sen. Mike Gianaris sent a letter of support Wednesday to the community board, according to a spokesman.
But Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, the most important player in this process, said he planned to sponsor the co-naming in the city council. For a street naming to occur, it needs a sponsor and a vote before the council.
“I’m a big fan of history and I’ve been very impressed by what Ian has uncovered and what took place there,” Van Bramer said.
McGowan, this afternoon, said he was “excited” about the support he is getting.
Meanwhile, the Celtic Park coop board could not be reached for comment about the proposed street co-naming.