Third Avenue is now ‘Ragamuffin Way’
City names street corner to honor children’s parade
New York City officially recognized the generational importance of one of Bay Ridge’s long-standing traditions when it named a street corner in tribute to the Ragamuffin Parade, a march for children that marks its 50th anniversary this year.
On Sept. 17, Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) presided over a ceremony to unveil a new street sign reading “Ragamuffin Way” on the corner of Third Avenue and 74th Street.
Gentile had introduced legislation in the City Council to authorize the street naming. Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the legislation into law.
The Ragamuffin Parade, which features thousands of young children marching in colorful and often cleverly conceived costumes, is traditionally held on Third Avenue.
This year’s parade will take place on Saturday, Oct. 1.
The event is sponsored every year by the non-profit group Ragamuffin Inc. The group’s president, Colleen Golden, attended the street naming ceremony. “Our children deserve the very best. We celebrate our children,” she said, explaining the theme of the parade.
Members of the Bay Ridge Lemonade Coalition, a group of children who organize community improvement projects, came to the street corner ceremony dressed in costumes ranging from Harry Potter to Frank Sinatra to girls in poodle skirts straight of “Grease.”
Gentile called the Ragamuffin Parade “a true Bay Ridge institution” and said the big march is indicative of “our small town in the big city.”
Gentile, who called the parade “an iconic generational tradition,” said that parents today “participated in the parade in their day.”
The first Ragamuffin Parade took place in 1966.
The parade was the brainchild of two men, the Rev. James McKenna, a priest at Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church on Fourth Avenue and 73rd Street, and Cliff Scanlon, a Bay Ridge civic leader.
Both men were eager to take the community’s mind off crime in the headlines in the turbulent 1960s and hold a joyful event where families could get together and kids could have fun.
“This was the 1960s when everything was falling apart,” said Charles Otey, executive secretary of the Merchants of Third Avenue and a longtime Bay Ridge resident, who remembers the origins of the parade.
“Cliff came up with the idea of holding a parade for children,” Otey said, explaining that the concept was to help kids.
In 1966, long before the advent of the Internet, news that Our Lady of Angles was organizing a children’s parade was spread through word of mouth. “It was a true community grassroots outreach,” Gentile said.
The first parade took place on Fourth Avenue. The children marched from 67th Street to Bay Ridge Parkway.
By 1967, the parade’s second year, the event expanded beyond Our Lady of Angels Church to include the whole neighborhood.
Scanlon’s son, Cliff Scanlon Jr., and his wife Joan were at the ceremony on Saturday.
“You can’t have a Ragamuffin Parade without costumes,” Gentile said. Originally, the children marched in the parade wearing their parents clothing, looking like urchins dressed in over-sized clothing.
While the parade was designed to highlight children, it actually wound up helping adults, too, according to Otey, who said it opened up lines of communication in families. Parents and children would talk excitedly about what costumes the children would wear in the parade.
Elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan, state Sen. Marty Golden, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Assembly members Pamela Harris and Nicole Malliotakis, praised the parade and the committee.
“We are a community of traditions. You have been doing this for 50 years. A lot of things don’t last for 50 years,” Donovan said.
“This is a great, great day,” Golden said. “It’s about keeping a community strong.”
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