New York’s legendary “Queen of Soul Food” Sylvia Woods, whose iconic restaurant drew dignitaries and ordinary folk from all over the world to Harlem to taste her fried chicken, died Thursday at 86.
News that she died broke just as Mayor Bloomberg was paying tribute to the 50th anniversary of “Sylvia’s” at a gala reception at Gracie Mansion.
“We lost a legend today,” the mayor said. “Generations of family and friends have come together at what became a New York institution.”
The Woods family said she was surrounded by loved ones when she lost her battle with Alzheimer’s.
Tributes quickly began pouring in.
“Sylvia’s has been more than a restaurant, it has been a meeting place for black America,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who recalled dining there with everyone from President Obama to Caroline Kennedy.
Rep. Charles Rangel said he was “deeply saddened” by the loss of a friend.
“She was a dynamic, warm and kind woman whom the entire Harlem community will miss,” he said.
Rangel called the eatery, where he recently celebrated his squeaker primary win, “a magical place that brought the community together.”
“Sylvia’s may have been famous nationally and internationally, but its soul has always remained in Harlem,” he said.
Former Mayor David Dinkins called her an icon.