Village legends Lucy and Lenny Cecere honored in street naming ceremony

Lucy and Lenny Cecere Way was dedicated at an Oct. 16 ceremony. (Photo: Gabe Herman)

BY GABE HERMAN | Rainy weather didn’t dampen spirits at a ceremony to co-name the corner of MacDougal and Houston Streets “Lucy and Lenny Cecere Way” in honor of the late Greenwich Village fixtures.

The Cecere couple bought nearby 51 MacDougal St. in 1962, where they lived for the rest of their lives. Lucy died in 2010 at age 87, and Lenny lived to be 91, passing away in 2015.

They wed in 1949 at Our Lady of Pompeii Church and afterward moved to Sullivan Street, before eventually settling into their MacDougal Street home.

Lucy Cecere was raised in Greenwich Village by Italian immigrant parents. and was an advocate and activist in the community, co-founding the nonprofit Caring Community and helping to prevent the Village Nursing Home from closing in 1975. She was also a tireless advocate for creating the South Village Historic District.

Son Lenny Jr. at the ceremony. (Photo: Gabe Herman)

Lenny Cecere was also raised by Italian immigrants in Brooklyn and moved to the Village in 1949 after marrying Lucy. He was a World War II veteran who was involved in the Battle of the Bulge and the Allies’ recapture of France.

Lenny would eventually open a general store on the ground floor retail space at 51 MacDougal Street, “Something Special,” which became a beloved spot for Villagers to gather.

During the Oct. 16 street co-naming ceremony, about two dozen people, including local residents, officials and family members, huddled under scaffolding to keep out of the driving rain.

“I was deeply honored to know them,” said Assemblymember Deborah Glick at the ceremony. She called the Ceceres “the heart of the Village,” adding that the naming “touches our heart because they touched ours.”

People huddled under scaffolding during the rainy ceremony. Among those who spoke were State Senator Brad Hoylman, center left, and Speaker Corey Johnson, center right. (Photo: Gabe Herman)

Andrew Berman, executive director of Village Preservation, which proposed the honorary street renaming in 2017 to Community Board 2 and Council Member Corey Johnson, called Lucy “a nudge”in the best sense of the word. “She would not ever give up,” Berman said, including her advocacy for the South Village Historic District.

“I know I will never forget them,” Berman said. “They really touched my life. I’m sure everyone here feels the same way.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman and Johnson also spoke fondly of them at the ceremony.

“Today’s a rainy day but a real bright day because of what we are doing,” Johnson said. He called them “two of the greatest legends” that the area had ever seen.

Lucy and Lenny Cecere. (Courtesy Village Preservation)

Their daughter Francine thanked all of the officials and community members who made the day possible.

“To the community, thank you for embracing my parents,” she said. “There’s no other place my parents wanted to be.” She remembered her parents as always thinking of others, and looking to help other people first.

After the ceremony and the street sign unveiling, granddaughter Clare told this paper that the day was “very special.”

“I don’t know how to put it into words,” she explained.

Son Lenny Jr. said that his parents were devoted to Greenwich Village until the end of their lives, even sticking it out during the area’s tough times in the 1970s. He said his mother attended community meetings until just before her death, and his father was at the store until the end as well.

Lenny Jr. called the day “very emotional.” He added, “You’re happy on the one hand, and you miss them very much on the other.”