Hundreds gathered at a Midtown street corner Wednesday evening to celebrate a man who left his mark on New York City with far too many smiles to count and several lifetimes worth of memories. The corner of East 57th Street and First Avenue will forever be known as Jimmy Neary Way, named after the Irish immigrant-turned-restauranteur whose bar, Neary’s, became a landmark through his 55 years of service.
“Jimmy lived the American dream,” said Mayor Eric Adams, “He came here from Ireland and became an NYC institution.”
“His customers came for the food but stayed for the man,” Mayor Adams added.
The event, hosted by Upper East Side City Council Member Julie Menin and featuring a who’s-who of prominent New Yorkers— including Mayor Eric Adams, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and Today show host Hoda Kotb— is a posthumous honor for the late restauranteur, who passed away last October at 91 years old.
“[Jimmy Neary] made every patron feel welcome and part of his extended family,” said Council Member Menin.
For many, the passing of Jimmy Neary was deeply personal, as the longtime bar owner touched so many lives through his decades at the restaurant, including Menin, who sponsored legislation to co-name the street corner in his honor.
“When my mom died, Jimmy provided solace to my father,” she explained.
“Several years ago my father became homebound and the one time I got him to leave his apartment was on his [birthday] last year. Jimmy warmly greeted him,” said Menin.
“Once again, it’s Jimmy who got my dad out of the house.”
Opening on St. Patrick’s Day in 1967, Neary’s Irish restaurant is still going strong, now under the steady guidance of Jimmy’s eldest daughter, Una Neary.
“I am glad to say that his joy is still palpable throughout this establishment and carries on under Una’s leadership,” said Menin.
“We can all be rest assured that Neary’s will be here for many years to come.”