East Harlem’s hot spot for political players received an official city honor Sunday for one of the neighborhood’s most prominent leaders.
The east side of Lexington Avenue and East 116th Street is now called Vito Marcantonio Lucky Corner, after the seven-term U.S. congressman who served the neighborhood between 1935 and 1951. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said the street held special significance because Marcantonio would hold lavish campaign events there during his tenure.
Other elected officials would go on to emulate those events at the same spot with similar success, according to Mark-Viverito, whose offices are on the street.
“This corner has launched so many careers,” she said.
Community leaders and historians said Marcantonio, who served under the American Labor Party, worked hard for his constituents, especially the growing Puerto Rican population in East Harlem. He called for the island’s independence and fought for civil rights during his time in the U.S. House, according to the groups.
At the same time, Marcantonio came under fire from other Congress members for the ALP’s ties to communism and his staunch opposition to the Korean War.
Still the congressman’s supporters, like Frank L. Marcantonio, his first cousin once removed, said his passion was for working-class Americans, and that he influenced leaders who also worked hard for civil rights.
“We have a direct link to what happened in our history to today’s causes,” he said.