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Van Bramer Passes Historic Celtic Park Dual Street Renaming in City Council

© Copyright Ian McGowan / Winged Fist Organization.

Aug. 9, 2011 By Christian Murray

Jimmy Van Bramer submitted a successful proposal for the dual name street name of “Winged Fist Way/ 43rd Street” between 48th and 50th Avenues in Woodside, Queens, reports Ian McGowan, Executive Director of

McGowan explains, “This street runs through the two square blocks which today are the Celtic Park apartments. A hundred years ago, this block ran between the Celtic Park grandstand and the track & field of the Irish-American Athletic Club, a training ground for dozens of Olympic champions.”

Initially, McGowan had sought to post a plaque commemorating the athletes, but there was some controversy.
McGowan continues, “The renaming will be making an… effort to acknowledge the men who won more than 50 Olympic medals for the U.S., and were known affectionately as the ‘Winged Fists of Celtic Park.

As well as Van Bramer and his staffer Joe Kenton, McGowan thanks the many local supporters of the renaming, and local officials and groups, particularly Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan for her early support, Congressman Joe Crowley, State Senator Mike Gianaris, the United Forties Civic Association and Queens Community Board 2.

Photo Courtesy of the American Irish Historical Society

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Eric Erickson

I am a bit surprised about the controversy of this plaque. My great grandfather belonged to the Irish American Club. He was recruited by them. This enabled him to attend the 1912 Olympic games. My great grandfather, Egon Erickson, was not Irish. He was Swedish. There were others that were not Irish that belonged to the Irish American Club also. I think the problem here is that you have forgotten why we all came to the US in the first place. We didnt fight because we were different ethnicities, we all got along. When I was a young boy, I lived on a street in the Bronx that had may different ethnicities. We all got along. We all watched out for each other. Now, we could care less who our neighbor is. I believe this club helped my great grandfather and others in many ways. He worked as a policeman for NYPD and retired as a detective. I dont think stuff like that just happens. I think it is important to remember those who built a foundation for us. I hope to visit this plaque when I visit in the future.
Ian, you did a great job. I know that my great grandfather would be proud.

Sunnyside Post

[From the editors: We believe this is roughly what the last comment means:]

“Good story!
As good as Irish organizations like “Winged Fist” are, the language is lovely, too! James Ware discusses members of the Irish-American Athletic Association in his book “Irish Fame and the Olympic Games 1896-1996.” More information is available on Wikipedia: and Everyone will get a chance to hear the language of the Way of the Winged Fist” at the inaugural ceremony in March …May God help you keep up the good work, Ian!”

[From the editors: Dear ClubLeabhar, Thank you for your spirited post, but please post in English. Many commenters speak other languages but keep to English for the benefit of most, and also, our translators are more tired than skilled. We look forward to hearing the real thing on inaugural day, however, as you suggest.]

Club Leabhar Nua Eabhrac

Is maith an sgéal é sin!

Cé nach “eagras Gaeilge” iad, cuireann an WFO an teanga chun cinn lena logo dathúil!

Luann Séamus Ware baill den Chumann Lúthchleas Gael-Mheiriceánach ina leabhar Laochra na hÉireann agus na Cluichí Oilimpeacha 1896-1996.

Tá tuilleadh eolais ar fáil ar Vicipéid: agus ar suíomh an WFO:

‘Chuile seans go gcloisfear an Ghaeilge ar “Slí an Doirn Sciathánaí” ag an searmanas tionscnaimh i Márta…

Bail ó Dhia ar an obair, a Ian!

Rick Duro

I was @ the CB#2 meeting when Ian gave a very impassioned speech about the historical significance of The Winged Fist.

Many of us forget the intolerance that met the Irish upon their entry to our shores. From what I recall Ian saying, the Winged Fist symbol/name was in direct response to the fact that the Irish were refused entry to the New York Athletic Club (winged foot symbol).

The fact that so many Olympic Champions worked out here in Sunnyside is amazing.

The board of Ian’s bldg should be ashamed of themselves for refusing his idea of a plaque on his building commemorating Winged Fist, bunch of dolts.

I was also @ the CB#2 meeting where Ian’s parents gave absolutely eloquent speeches about Winged Fist. I believe it was his Mom, whose speech brought tears to many people’s eyes. Such beautiful words!

Congrats Ian!!


Rick Duro
Sunnyside United Dog Society

Richard O' Connor

Hey Ian, seems like the first comment on this page came from a current or x Celtic Park board member. You are just reporting the historical facts the way they were and you deserve a lot of credit for all the time, effort and research invested in this worthy project.
Congrats and looking foward to the unveling of the Winged Fist Way street sign.


And the dim-wits on the Celtic Park co-op board wouldn’t even let a simple plaque be placed on the property to commemorate this.

steve cottrell

Ian McGowan has worked tirelessly to remind people of the amazing things that happened at Celtic Park, and I’m thrilled to see that his effort to co-name part of 43rd street Winged Fist Way has finally become a reality. Good for Ian, and good for the city council.

I don’t live in NYC, but the next time I’m there I’ll be headed out to Woodside, Queens to take a look at the new street sign.

Walter Kehoe

I may be a bit biased, being a descendant of a immigrant born in Ireland in 1844, who lived, thrived, and died in Long Island City in 1883, and also a member of the Advisory Board of the Winged Fist Organization. But knowing first hand, from researching the history and accomplishments of the Americans who trained taught, worked, and shared thier accomplishments with the public at Celtic Park, I don’t think that focusing attention on the Winged Fist and Celtic Park is unimportant.

Had not this all inclusive organization thrived in the midst of our County of Queens for three decades, would this borough, today, be able to rightly claim to be the most, ethnically diverse area in the nation? The Irish-American Athletic Club celebrated its ethnic diversity long before ethnic tolerance, let alone acceptance, was politically correct.

So I say Yes it is important to focus on The Winged Fist’s of Celtic Park and their contribution to the fabric of the area, the County, the Country and the street that they traversed. For it was they who brought 50 + Olympic Medals home to our City of New York at a time of its greatest need.

Long live the memory of the Winged Fist, Celtic Park and the athletes who are commemorated by our City with the modest tribute of Winged Fist Way.


I have lived in Sunnyside for over 12 years and I love this community because it is filled with people from all over the globe. I am also a runner who is proud to do much of my training along the streets of Sunnyside. What a honor it is to live in a neighborhood with such a glorious history of athletic achievement. In my small humble way I feel like I’m carrying the torch (even though I am of Italian-Ukranina descent). Winged Fist Way and what it commemorates is just one more reason why Queens ROCKS.


There also used to be a lot of Greek people living near the Celtics. Many of them have moved to Long Island.

Joe Wolff

Some very interesting history, sunnyside should be proud of it’s immigrant history. I would not focus so much on the fact that they where mostly Irish, but rather that they were the underclass at a time when much of organized sports was ruled by the wealthy.

kevin mccarthy

I am Irish and live in Ireland. I have never been to Sunnyside in my life, and only to New York itself once. However, I can tell you that Celtic Park was one of the most important sporting and cultural venues in the USA a hundred years ago. Not only did members of the Irish American Athletic Club win over fifty Olympic medals for the USA but the club was a real ground breaker in terms of helping people from different ethnic backgrounds to belong in NYC. The first African-American and first Jewish American to win Olympic medals for the USA were members of the Celtic Park club. If I were a resident of Sunnyside, I would be very, very proud of this name. The USA had few greater sporting servants than the athletes of the ‘Winged Fist’ club, many of whom also served their country as policemen and soldiers in turn. This re-naming is an appropriate honour.


As a direct descendant of a Winged Fist member, I think this is a great day! Thank you Ian for all your hard work to honor and recognize the Winged Fist Boys!

Neighborhood Observer

Thank you to all who made this happen. I had no idea the apartments were built on a former athletic field with such a proud history. Knowing our past helps us move into a well-informed future.


Can we stop focusing on the fact that Sunnyside USED to be an Irish neighborhood ~100 years ago and focus on more important things?


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