UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (PIX11) – For 55 years, Jimmy Neary was everyone’s favorite leprechaun at the restaurant he opened on St. Patrick’s Day in 1967.

This week the New York City Council voted to rename the corner of First Avenue and East 57th Street “Jimmy Neary Way.”

Those who knew him best gathered to celebrate at Neary’s on Friday.

“He just touched this whole community and even more broadly,” said Una Neary, Jimmy’s daughter and now owner. “To have his name on his favorite street for the rest of time is the greatest gift he could ever be given.”

Jimmy Neary
Jimmy Neary

Neary came to America as a penniless Irish immigrant and eventually bought the building and created a gathering spot for movers and shakers of the city. One of the regulars was former Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

“He came in and said ‘Jimmy Neary, I’m going to have a car out front tomorrow and you’re coming with me to Sligo (the county in Ireland Neary was from),” said Una Neary. “It was the highlight of my father’s life.”

The late newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin was also a regular, as is his son James.

“Jimmy Neary cared about people and his customers and that’s the beauty of Jimmy Neary Way,” said Breslin. “People will be asking who is that man.”

On Neary’s 90th birthday, a year before he passed away, he was so touched by video greetings from his customers during the pandemic. But to those who worked alongside Jimmy for decades, they say it is the customers who should be forever grateful.

“They’d come in and they’d have a Sour Puss and he’d say ‘hello, how are you?’ And with a big smile he changed their outlook for the day,” said Mary O’Connor, a longtime manager at Neary’s. “This is what Jimmy Neary gave to 57th Street.”

The street renaming ceremony is set for Sept. 14, which would have been Jimmy Neary’s 92nd birthday.