March 11, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
A one-block stretch of Woodward Avenue now bears the name of the late Father Yohanna T. Guirgis, an influential Ridgewood figure who passed away last year.
Councilmembers Robert Holden and Antonio Reynoso held a ceremony on Saturday to celebrate the co-naming of Woodward Avenue between Grove and Linden Streets after the religious leader, which will now also be known as Father Yohanna Guirgis Way.
The co-naming took place following legislation passed by the City Council in January that approved the renaming of 68 public places across the five boroughs after deceased local leaders and activists.
Members of the community petitioned the City Council to include Guirgis as one of the leaders to be commemorated—a proposal that Holden ultimately sponsored. While a co-naming does not formally change a street name, a commemorative sign is posted at the location.
Guirgis, who emigrated to the United States from Egypt in 1973, established New York’s first Coptic Christian Church, St. Mary & St. Antonios, located at 606 Woodward Ave. He died on May 22 at the age of 95.
At the co-naming ceremony, Holden, Reynoso, and Father Antonios Makaryus of St Mary & Saint Antonios Church, all spoke to the many accomplishments of Guirgis, and his influence on the immigrant community in Ridgewood.
Guirgis was known for lending a helping hand to recent Egyptian immigrants, assisting them with obtaining jobs, filling out paperwork, learning the language, and finding a place to live.
“Father Guirgis was the embodiment of faith and exemplified the best of community service,” Holden said.
Guirgis and his family were willing to go above and beyond, Makaryus said, welcoming new immigrants into their own home when they could not find a place to live.
“Their children would come home and find the house full of guests,” Makaryus said.
Reynoso expressed his hope that the street sign, which was hung on Saturday, would serve as a reminder to the community of all the good that Guirgis brought to them.
“Long after we’re all gone, when we all go to where God may take us, this street will always whisper the name of Father Guirgis,” Reynoso said.