Guardian Angels 40th Anniversary Celebration

Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa (center) and seven of the 13 original members (left to right): Aldo Slinadas, Dominick Serra, William Bohenberger, Tony Ng, Don Chin, and Tommy McArdle. Photo credit: Robert Press

Guardian Angels Celebrate 40th Anniversary

By Robert Press

Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa (center) and McDonald’s owner Robert Rodriguez (right) with proclamations from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and City Councilman Ritchie Torres.

On February 10, 1979, thirteen young workers at a Bronx McDonald’s on East Fordham Road came together to do something about the steadily declining area around the IRT 4 train on Jerome Avenue. Led by McDonald’s night manager Curtis Sliwa they formed the ‘Rock Brigade’ to clean up the area, and make local residents feel safe once again by escorting them home when the people came into the McDonald’s feeling unsafe.

This Rock Brigade then increased the area where they were helping people feel safe. They went up to Kingsbridge Road, down the Grand Concourse to East 161st Street, and across the Bronx to Westchester Square, Curtis Sliwa would say when recalling the history of the group.

The ad hoc group’s name was changed to the ‘Guardian Angels’ as the number of young men and women grew. Those Guardian Angels rode the subways in their red jackets and red berets to make subway riders feel safer as crime underground was increasing.

Unarmed, those young men and women were empowering others to take responsibility. And those clad in red jackets and berets became role models for life in a then-gritty Big Apple.

Aldo Slinadas, Curtis Sliwa, Dominick Serra, William Bohenberger, Tony NG, Don Chin, and Tommy McArdle. Photo Credit: Robert Press

The Guardian Angels did have some internal problems as their fame and notoriety grew, as only seven of the original thirteen showed up for this fortieth anniversary celebration.

Sliwa offered his thanks go to McDonald’s Corporation franchisee Tony Rodriguez (owner of fourteen McDonald’s in the Bronx and Manhattan), Captain George MolĂ© of the NYPD, and all the men and women who wore the red jacket and beret.

On Saturday night, the Guardian Angels received citations from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and local Councilman Ritchie Torres. There was a red and white 40th Anniversary cake, and the McDonald’s on Southern Boulevard which hosted the anniversary celebration sold 40-cent apple pies in honor of the 40 years of the Guardian Angels.

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