As Mayor Thomas M. Menino took in the crowd gathered in the gymnasium at the Hyde Park YMCA, his mind took him back to basketball games and Ping-Pong tournaments of his youth. He grew up, and still lives, not far away.
On Thursday, more than 100 people came to salute the outgoing mayor as the building was officially renamed in his honor, the latest in a growing list of spaces around the city that will bear his name long after he leaves City Hall in January.
“Mayor Menino has been a transformative figure in the city of Boston,” said Kevin Washington, president and chief executive of the YMCAs of Greater Boston. “There could be no better name for this building.”
An excited Menino worked the room, where members of the community and elected officials had gathered. Among those attending were Councilor Rob Consalvo, who succeeded Menino in representing the Hyde Park neighborhood on the council, as well as Menino’s wife, Angela, and his two children.
Before Menino spoke, a group of young children from the nearby West Roxbury YMCA delivered an energetic performance of “Jingle Bells,” earning a broad smile from the mayor.
‘Mayor Menino has been a transformative figure in the city.’Kevin Washington, president, YMCAs of Greater Boston
Menino’s 20 years running City Hall make him the longest-serving mayor in Boston history, so
it is no surprise that his legacy will be etched across the city.
Several libraries feature Menino reading rooms or lecture halls and, earlier this year, the Archdale Community Health Center in Roslindale was renamed after him. Boston Medical Center includes the Menino Pavilion.
Then there’s the Thomas M. Menino Community Room at the new public library in East Boston.
“We built this for you all,” Menino said lovingly to the dozens of children seated on the floor in front of him during the dedication earlier this year, “so that all of the kids of East Boston can enjoy the best library in the whole city.”
Beyond Menino, Boston is littered with reminders of its leaders.
Memorials to other mayors include the bronze statue of four-term leader Kevin White that sits outside Faneuil Hall. The convention center bears the name of John B. Hynes, who spent a decade as mayor.
And in a city that loves its politics and its mayors, there are several, less formal, tributes to past leaders.
The walls of J.J Foley’s in the South End, one of the city’s oldest pubs, feature a makeshift memorial of campaign stickers and newspaper headlines declaring the election of Menino’s predecessor, Raymond L Flynn, who has considerably fewer things named after him.
“The people of Boston know how hard I worked for them, and how my administration tried to help everybody.” Flynn said. “That’s good enough for me.”
The back corner of the Tip Tap Room, a downtown eatery and bar, features a Mayor’s Corner, a mural that depicts White, Flynn, and Menino. Just blocks away sits jm Curley, a restaurant and speakeasy named after the former mayor, governor, and congressman James Michael Curley.
On Thursday, Menino said that Hyde Park dedication was special to him, in large part because of the role that the YMCA played in his life and the lives of other children growing up in the neighborhood.
“We have to continue to help places like this flourish,” Menino said.
Attendees praised Menino’s devotion to the neighborhood and his commitment during his tenure to provide resources for youth programming and hangout spots like the Y.
“He has meant so much to us,” said Alicia Horwitz of Roslindale, who was swimming at the YMCA with her 2-year old son, Sam, when the mayor arrived at the building.
She jumped out of the pool, grabbed a towel, and, still dripping, came out into the hallway to introduce the boy to the mayor.
“Can you give the mayor a handshake?” she prompted, before her young son apprehensively embraced Menino.