Community Board 2 Chairman Joe Conley opened the ceremony on Saturday by saying, “If Walter were here, he would say, ‘Oh, please,’ and push his glasses back up his nose.”
McCaffrey was a fierce advocate for his constituents, and though he never ascended beyond a subcommittee position on the City Council, he was described by Assemblyman Joe Crowley as “a man of action” that knew how to get things done.
“He used his wit, his personality and his superior intelligence to become one of the most powerful people in the City Council and New York City,” Crowley said. “He never took himself very seriously, but he was a very serious fellow when it came to his work.”
Prior to entering the political arena, McCaffrey served as Chair of Community Board 2, followed by a stint as chief of staff for Manhattan Borough President Andrew Stein and the late Congressman Thomas Manton.
He then went on to become the chair of the City Council’s Zoning and Franchises subcommittee, also serving on the Land Use, Finance, Public Safety and Transportation committees.
He drafted landmark legislation requiring security cameras at ATMs and restricting ATM surcharge fees, and led sponsorship of legislation banning or restricting adult establishments from residential areas and school zones.
McCaffrey passed away in June last year due to health problems complicated by a car accident.
Many of McCaffrey’s friends were present at the dedication, including Queens Supreme Court Justice Kevin Kerrigan.
“Walter always used to say that Woodside was the center of New York City,” Kerrigan said. “He knew every nook and cranny of Woodside. This is a great tribute to a great man.”
Assemblywoman Catharine Nolan said that when she met McCaffrey, she was relatively new to politics, and credits him with teaching her that politics can actually be fun, even if it is serious work.
“It’s part of the give and take of a community,” Nolan said. “It’s a fun honor and a privilege to serve the people of our community.”
As a testament to McCaffrey’s sense of humor and lightheartedness, which was remembered fondly by those present, Peter Vallone, Sr. remembered being told by the late council member once, “Speaker, remember to introduce the president, introduce the governor, and introduce the mayor.”
When Vallone protested, saying, “But they’re not here,” McCaffrey replied, “It’s more important for the media who are not here to print that.”