Those who knew Rachel Spivey describe her as a person that could bring out the best in people through a larger-than-life personality. She helped grow the Claremont Neighborhood Center. Now, she will forever be immortalized with a street named in her honor.
In a ceremony that included remarks by Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Assemblyman Michael Benjamin, Councilwoman Helen Diane Foster and many others, E. 169th Street near Washington Avenue was renamed in her honor on Friday, August 21 as Rachel E. Spivey Boulevard.
Family – including one of her sons and a grandson – as well as volunteers and staff of her beloved Claremont Neighborhood Center at 489 E. 169th Street where she was executive director from 1984 to until her passing in 2005, were on hand.
“Miss Spivey was small of stature but she could get you to do just about anything,” said Claremont executive director Abraham Jones. “She was all about pushing people to get a good education, which is why we gave out 11 college scholarships [in her memory].”
Jones recalled numerous occasions where Spivey’s work was instrumental in making the community center a place where young people and those down on their luck could go to better themselves. He said that the center grew exponentially during Spivey’s tenure and that it continues to grow today, due to all of her hard work.
Spivey started at the center as a volunteer with the Fresh Air Fund program in 1972, and was soon working full-time as a family worker. After assuming the role of executive director, she oversaw the center’s after-school program, summer day care, adolescent pregnancy prevention programs, music and arts, as well as job-readiness training.
“I think that she would have been honored by the renaming,” said her son Sean Spivey. “She didn’t do her work for recognition, she did it for the community.”
Sean Spivey said she was a woman with a zest for life and a passion for making those around her live up to their potential.
“She was definitely tough, but fair too,” Sean said. “She always expected the very best and held you to that standard. She loved it at Claremont Neighborhood Center and spent more hours here than she did at home.”
Spivey also help make the careers of many people who she guided in terms of their profession and personally.
“She would look for the good in you and push you to do better and then encourage you to come back to give back,” said Nicole Coleman-Torres, who was mentored by Spivey and now works at Claremont as director of children’s services.
Spivey also sat on Community Board 3, as well as on advisory boards for Bronx Lebanon Hospital and the Melrose Community School. She was also instrumental in forming a partnership between the center and Trinity United Methodist Church.