Street renamed in honor of Robert O. Lowery, first black FDNY commissioner

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HARLEM, Manhattan — The city dedicated a street in Harlem to Robert O. Lowery, the New York City's first black fire commissioner Saturday.

City officials and the Vulcan Society, the fraternal organization of black New York firefighters, unveiled Robert O. Lowery Way at West 155th Street and Riverside Drive.

Lowery died in 2001 at age 85 and was sworn in as the 21st fire commissioner of the FDNY in 1966.

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who was Lowery's nephew, spoke at the street name reveal.

“[Lowery was] strong enough to be the first of his race to lead a storied organization and transform it,” Holder said.

Lowery oversaw the department at a time when arsons tore apart the city’s black neighborhoods. He managed a department that had approximately 12,000 members — 600 of which were black.

He joined the Fire Department as a firefighter in 1941 at a time when black people were not allowed to use the kitchens in firehouses and slept in separate areas.