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PR- 277-12
July 24, 2012


 The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s remarks as delivered this afternoon at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem:

“Good afternoon, everyone.

“Reverend Butts, thank you. Reverend Flake, we enjoyed your presence, and I particularly enjoyed your telling us that God told you that he called Sylvia for soul food. You should know that God talked to Reverend Butts and me as well – and he said that a few decades from now when he calls you, it will definitely not be for your cooking.

“Anyway, many Sunday mornings I’ve been to this church, and Reverend Butts’ church, to celebrate life and to talk a little bit about how we can improve our wonderful city. Today, however, we are here to talk about not life, but a life. And not how to improve our city, but how to carry on a legacy that has certainly been established and made our city what it is.

“Few people come to mean as much to so many as Sylvia Woods did to generations of New Yorkers – and especially to the Harlem community.

“It’s no secret why. When you walked through Sylvia’s doors, she made you feel right at home. Like her 4 children, 18 grandchildren, her great-grandchildren and her great-great grandchildren, when you sat down at the table, you were part of the extended family. 

“And I will never forget celebrating her 80th birthday with her – and the only thing that could compare to her cooking that day was her legendary hospitality. That warm welcome meant a great deal – especially in a city where so many have come from so far to pursue a shot at a better life – just like Sylvia Woods did.

“Her story is a 100 percent, real-life New York City story. As a young woman, Sylvia set out from South Carolina to join her mother here. She took a job as a waitress in a small luncheonette in Harlem, without any job security and without much income. Then she took a big chance, taking a loan from the mortgage of the family farm to build a business and a dream.

“She poured her heart and her soul into her enterprise, and with a little bit of luck, a ton of hard work and some incredible barbecued ribs – which I still carry around my waistline – she made that business world-famous.

“That’s no exaggeration. And as we speak, families around the globe are packing their bags for a visit to New York City – with a visit to Harlem and Sylvia’s restaurant right in the center of their plans.

“She brought the world to Harlem, and she made sure that the world took Harlem back home with them.

“There are many things that Sylvia did that benefitted our city – and no question, many of them are on the menu. But I think the most important and powerful things are not – like her dedication to supporting the community through charitable work.

“That’s the Sylvia we’ll remember, and though they called her the Queen of Soul Food, it was her warmth, her grace and her generosity that truly made her royalty.

“The empire that she built will live on. While Sylvia has gone home now, she is back together with her true love: Herbert. We know that Sylvia’s is in good hands: the family members who are here with us today.

“If anyone knows the secret recipe of her success, they do. As she put it, take ‘a little this and a little bit of that, and you mix it all together. But make sure a whole lot of love goes in it.’ She said, ‘If you don't have that, you don’t have nothing at all.’

“May God always watch over her, and may He bless and protect the Harlem community that she nurtured and loved, and everybody in this wonderful city of ours. See you at Sylvia’s.”


Stu Loeser / Kamran Mumtaz   (212) 788-2958


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