Jimmy Neary lived the dream of millions of New York City immigrants, carving out a legacy in America for himself and his family.
His adopted city is now paying tribute to the native of Ireland in perpetuity, on what would have been his 92nd birthday.
Jimmy Neary Way was dedicated on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, at 5 p.m. ET in Midtown Manhattan in honor of the late owner of Neary’s restaurant, which famously opened on St. Patrick’s Day 1967.
His eatery soon became a favorite destination for local residents and visitors from far and wide, where everyday New Yorkers jostled for tables in its dignified dining room alongside power brokers and celebrities.
“To have his name on his favorite street for the rest of time is the greatest gift he could ever be given,” Una Neary, Jimmy’s daughter and now owner, told WPIX when the city council voted this July to rename the intersection of First Avenue and East 57th Street in her dad’s honor.
Born in County Sligo, Ireland, Jimmy Neary, arrived in New York City in 1954 and soon found work in the bar business.
Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Hugh Carey, Ed Koch and Tip O’Neill were some of Neary’s most famous customers, the New York Post reported in his 2021 obituary.
Neary died on Oct. 1, 2021 at age 91.
Late celebrated journalist Jimmy Breslin, longtime television personality Kathie Lee Gifford and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg were among his regulars.
“Today my beloved friend, Jimmy Neary, will be honored on what would be his 92nd birthday by having the street corner at 57th and 1st named Jimmy Neary Way,” Gifford tweeted on Wednesday.
“I can’t imagine anyone more deserving of this honor! I send my love to the Neary family on this very special day,” she also said.
Among other honors in his life, Jimmy and Eileen Neary dined at the White House with President George H.W. Bush in a dinner celebrating peace efforts in Northern Ireland.
Neary’s funeral was held at nearby St. Patrick’s Cathedral, officiated by Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
“For so many people, (Neary’s) is a home,” the late mystery novelist Mary Higgins Clark, a patron for more than 40 years, told the New York Post in a 2013 story about the pub.
“He makes everyone feel like his day was made when they walked in the door.”
“Neary’s is a New York institution — and one of my favorite spots for dinner — because Jimmy was a New York legend,” Bloomberg posted on Twitter after the restaurateur’s death.
“My father had this unique ability to connect with anyone of any age about any topic. He was a great storyteller and people were just drawn to him. He was like a magnet. He was extraordinary,” Una Neary told the New York Post in October.
“What he did is what he loved, and he just loved people. It was all about people for him,” she said.
“He would say he didn’t care if the restaurant ever made a penny, he just wanted to be around people.”
New York City loved him back.