Sunset Park BID’s Henry Irving dies at 76

May 13, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
Sunset Park BID’s Henry Irving dies at 76
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Sunset Park is remembering a beloved member of the neighborhood.

On March 26, Henry Irving, the resident representative on the board of directors of the Sunset Park Business Improvement District (BID) and a beloved Sunset Parker, died at age 76.

“Everything happened so quickly,” Irving’s youngest daughter Jennifer McCool told this paper. “It was the beginning of the end of what ‘normalcy’ we were all living. He was admitted to [NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi] Tuesday the 24th and passed Thursday the 26th. Unfortunately, we were not capable of getting him to his doctors in NYU who have cared for him for seven years.”

McCool said, “I feel even though he tested negative for the coronavirus, he passed away as a casualty from the virus.”

The BID shared sacred memories of Irving, who would take his duties seriously. He also performed music on Fifth Avenue to entertain local shoppers.

“I knew Henry for years and he was the only resident of Sunset Park on the Sunset Park BID board of directors,” said former BID Executive Director Renee Giordano. “We looked for years to find someone who would care enough about Fifth Avenue from the residents’ point of view. He knew it all and he cared about it all.”

“Even when he got sick,” she said, “he wouldn’t let on, and still made sure to always be there. He saw everyone as a human being. He had nothing to hide, spoke his mind and what you saw was what he was. He never beat around the bush. He was straightforward and had no problem speaking up for what he thought was right, and especially to advocate for Sunset Park. And he knew how to make each of us feel important to him. He always would say hello by saying happy ‘whichever day it was’, so every day to him was a happy day.”

McCool also told this paper about the impact her father had on the community.

“He is a retired custodian from P.S. 102 (211 72nd St,), loved cooking, family, and holidays,” she said. “He never judged a person and always wanted to help and share his wisdom with others.”

Photo courtesy of Renee Giordano

Irving was well known for playing his music on Fifth Avenue in Sunset Park as the shoppers on the avenue walked by.

“We would say he was the Mayor of 5th Avenue,” McCool said.

Current BID Executive Director David Estrada also shared his memories of Irving.

“Our own beloved 20-year resident board member Henry Irving passed away,” he said. “He was a fixture. If anyone has walked by Rite Aid [at Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street] and Banco Popular, Henry was the guy playing doo-wop music, telling jokes, waving American flags. Just the brightest soul you can imagine.”

Estrada also said, “He was a character. The ultimate Brooklyn mayor of the block. Wickedly witty, brutally honest, a guy who was an advocate for living with your eyes open. Such a great guy.”

Locals also responded to the news of his passing.

“Heartbreaking to know this,” said Frankie Lopez. “I would always see him in front of Rite Aid on 53rd and 5th listening to his music. Rest In God’s Paradise.

“He lived around the corner from me and he always said hi,” said Felix Estrella. “When my wife gave birth, he congratulated us and asked us how much my son weighed. I told him 9 lbs. and 3 oz. Next day, he comes by with a nice basket for us. I said thank you and you didn’t have to do that. He never missed a hello whenever he saw my family. He will be missed.”

“I loved listening to the music he played,” said one resident. “May he rest in peace.”

“I know him from Rite Aid. He was always there and was such a nice man,” added another.

According to McCool, Irving had four siblings: Reinny, Ginny, Kenny and Gregory, who passed away September 2011. He also had a brother-in-law Ralph and sister-in-law Terry.

“My mom Joyce and him have been separated for 40 years but still remained in one another’s lives,” she said. “He has six children, Karen, Kevin, who passed away June 2010, as well as Laura, Pamela, Michael and myself. He also has three sons-in-laws named Jimmy, Mike and Sean. His eight grandchildren were a huge part of his life. He would introduce himself as grandpa Henry to people he met and went by that name.”

She added, “When the world comes back to some sort of normalcy we will be having a mass and all will be invited.”

Giordano said, “You will be missed Henry, but you left your mark on Sunset Park and it will be there forever. Thanks.”


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