BY TEQUILA MINSKY | Last Friday, Santa’s sleigh traveled down MacDougal Street at 42-feet long and with red lights flashing, on his way to Father Fagan Park. That’s how he rolls, New York City style!
Descending from Greenwich Village Hook & Ladder 5 (the firehouse is at 6th Avenue and Houston Street) with a gold bag in hand, Santa was ready to give candy canes to the eager waiting children. But first, he lit the Christmas tree in the center of the park!
This is a dream come true for neighbor Al DiRaffaele, who for years wanted a tree lighting at the spot where Sixth Avenue, Prince and MacDougal Streets converge. And recently, DiRaffaele wanted to thank his neighbors for their caring and help during his recent health issues.
With a grant from Partnership for Parks for the tree and electrical hookup (and printed flyers), and Terese Flores from the Parks Department on board, and a very cooperative community, DiRaffaele orchestrated a spirited festivity to celebrate the season.
Additionally, the tree pits lining 6th Avenue were livened up. Jen Sale with Friends of Father Fagan Park and the horticultural team created pine bough-strewn, lush, colorful winter arrangements, brightening up the gray days of winter.
For Friday evening, local chocolatier Jacques Torres supplied the cocoa prepared by new-restaurant-in-the-‘hood Lola Taverna, whose pastry chef also baked up batches of the yummiest Greek Christmas cookies, while Trader Joe’s supplied other cookie assortments.
Seasonably cool at nightfall, neighbors drank hot chocolate and a chorus of carolers from 20 Washington Square North Greenwich House Senior Center led the outdoor party huddled on the plaza in Christmas songs. A sense of neighborhood grows in this corner of New York City.
For years, a planned renovation of the decrepit concrete walkway and a few worn benches was delayed by a plethora of issues from various agencies.
The little sliver Father Fagan Park, previously Father Fagan Square but really a triangle, initially was created as a result of the extension of Sixth Avenue beginning in 1925 and the de-mapping of the southern end of MacDougal Street.
It is named for a priest at the nearby St. Anthony’s of Padua rectory who died in a 1938 rectory fire while saving two of his fellow priests. The park also commemorates three firefighters who died fighting a 1994 Soho apartment building fire.
The $1.9 million renovation was completed in May 2018, and love and work from community members continue to make this tiny plaza park inviting. For example, in warmer weather, neighbor Allen Massano is regularly seen watering plants and generally caretaking.
It had been decades since a light-festooned tree added holiday cheer to the wedge-shaped plaza and finally DiRaffaele’s vision is realized.
“Special thanks to the firehouse’s Lt. Tom Breslin for being such a good Santa,” DiRaffaele said. “And what an entrance! Climbing down from that truck!” he recalled while beaming, “And, people were so astounded!”