Street renamed for dedicated ‘Mrs. Pelham Parkway’

Comras Rifkin’s daughter Madelyn Katz (front, 2nd from r) and her family happily accepted the ceremonial street sign from Councilman Gjonaj (front, l).
Photo by Kasey Rodriguez

‘Mrs. Pelham Parkway’ was honored by the community she dedicated herself to improving.

Councilman Mark Gjonaj, community leaders, family and friends attended a street co-naming ceremony honoring the late activist on Sunday, October 14.

The corner of Pelham Parkway South and Bogart Avenue was co-named ‘Blanche Comras Rifkin Way’ in her memory.

“Blanche was one of the most remarkable women I have ever met in my life,” expressed Howard Martin, Bronx House CEO. “She was a staunch defender of the Bronx and Pelham Parkway.”

Blanche Comras Rifkin was born to Minnie and Joseph Koenigsberg on March 18, 1916 at their home on Stebbins Avenue.

Throughout her lifetime, Comras Rifkin and her husband Oscar lived and raised their children on White Plains Road, Holland Avenue and Esplanade.

For over 40 years, the Pelham Parkway resident worked at a legal unit of Mental Hygiene Legal Services which met at Bronx State Hospital until her retirement in 2010.

Her warm personality and vast networking skills provided invaluable benefits to the MHLS staff and their clients.

“It was out of pure love for the community and for those that needed a voice that gave Blanche the drive to get up every morning to make sure that she made a difference in someone’s life,” stated Gjonaj.

Since 1980, Comras Rifkin was an active Community Board 11 member who served on the Einstein and Jacobi Medical Advisory Boards.

“Blanche was always so polite, happy and got along with everyone she worked with,” said Al D’Angelo, CB 11 chairman and Jacobi and Einstein advisory boards member. “She had so much energy and was always willing to help anyone.”

Her extensive resume included time as a member of the Pelham Parkway Citizens Council, P.S. 105 Parents Association and the Ruth Kurzon Group for Handicap Children and a board member of the Pelham Parkway Jewish Center, National Council of Jewish Women, Bronx House and UJA-Federation.

Comras Rifkin served as a member of Bronx House’s executive board for 45 years and was its former president and chairwoman emeritus.

After retiring at 94-years-old, she continued volunteering at Bronx House and attending monthly community meetings until her passing.

She was named a Bronx Times Reporter 25 Bronx Influental Women in 2011.

Comras Rifkin passed away on December 31, 2015 at 99-years-old.

According to her longtime friend former Bronx Borough President Robert Abrams, Comras Rifkin and her husband Oscar dedicated themselves toward having the city produce annual summer concerts for their neighborhood.

To honor their achievement, an area in Bronx Park between Lydig Avenue and Boston Road near the Bronx Zoo exit was dedicated as ‘Oscar Comras Mall.’

A boulder in the park bears a bronze plaque stating ‘Oscar Comras Mall – in tribute to the man who brought music to the Pelham Parkway community.’

“We’re very proud that there’s a living memorial to her in this community she had spent so much of her life helping,” shared Madelyn Katz, Blanche’s daughter.

“As someone who literally pounded the pavement and streets of Pelham Parkway for the welfare of its people and the betterment of the community, my mother would be so proud and grateful for this honor,” expressed Donald Katz.

(l-r) Comras Rifkin’s great grandchildren Amanda, Celia, Lila and Sam Katz held up the ceremonial street sign formally recognizing their amazing great grandmother.
Photo by Kasey Rodriguez

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