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Local News June 20, 2013  RSS feed


St. Renamings Coming To Maspeth & Sunnyside
by Robert Pozarycki

The late owner of a Maspeth bar, the former district manager and chairperson of Queens Community Board 4 and a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre with Sunnyside roots are among those which the City Council hopes to honor with the renaming of streets around Queens.

During their stated meeting last Wednesday, June 12, the City Council overwhelmingly approved Intro. No. 1045, which ceremonially renames 52 intersections and roadways across the five boroughs in honor of individuals and places of historical significance. The bill was subsequently sent to Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his signature in order to become law.

One of the locations to be renamed in the legislation is the block of 60th Drive between Fresh Pond Road and Mount Olivet Crescent in Maspeth, which would be renamed George Gibbons Jr. Way, honoring a former resident of the street and neighborhood bar owner who died in October 2011 in an automobile accident .

Gibbons, 37, was an active member of his community, participating in a number of neighborhood and charitable organizations including the American Cancer Society, the Monaghan Society and the Monaghan Football Club, the Shannon Gaels Association and the Wounded Warriors Project. He also served as a disc jockey during the block’s annual summer party.

The long-time Maspeth resident also opened his own bar, The Gibbons Home, on 69th Street in 2011. He was on his way home after closing the location on the morning of Oct. 15, 2011, when the cab he was riding in collided head-on with another vehicle traveling the wrong way on the Long Island Expressway’s eastbound service road near 58th Avenue.

Gibbons died from injuries he sustained in the crash, while the cab driver was seriously injured. The operator of the other vehicle—Peter Rodriguez of Brooklyn—fled from the scene following the accident and was caught a month later by police in Connecticut. Family members and friends of Gibbons assisted police in their effort to catch the suspect responsible by posting fliers around the neighborhood.

Rodriguez pled guilty in April 2012 to criminally negligent homicide and is currently serving a sentence of up to seven years in prison.

City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley sponsored the portion of the bill renaming part of 60th Drive in Gibbons’ honor.

The legislation also calls for the renaming of 102nd Street and Strong Avenue in Corona as Richard Italiano Corner, in memory of the late district manager and chairperson of Queens Board 4.

Italiano, who died in January 2012 from a lengthy illness, was a life-long Corona resident who attended St. Leo School and Newtown High School in neighboring Elmhurst. He first became involved with Board 4 in 1984 by joining its Youth Services Committee.

Eleven years later, Italiano was elected the board chairperson, a title he would hold through 2004. A year after leaving the chairperson’s post, he was hired as the board’s district manager.

During his service to Board 4, Italiano played instrumental roles in projects such as the construction of Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park and the expansion of Queens Center Mall. All the while, he remained active in a number of charity and community organizations in his area, including the Flushing Meadows Corona Park Conservancy, the New York Hospital Queens Community Advisory Council, the Italian Heritage and Culture Committee of Queens County and the Italian Charities of America.

The renaming request was sponsored by City Council Member Daniel Dromm.

Another late member of Board 4 and long-time Corona resident—Anthony Caminiti—is also in line for an honor, as the City Council bill calls for the intersection of 108th Street and 51st Avenue to be renamed Anthony “Tony” Caminiti Way.

Caminiti—who died in February 2012, two months after turning 100—attended P.S. 14 and Newtown High School. He served in the Army during World War II, and his company helped to liberate the Dachau Concentration Camp, freeing in the process about 32,000 prisoners. For his service to the nation, he received accolades such as the Combat Infantry Badge, the Bronze Star and the Conspicuous Service Cross.

Following the war, Caminiti returned home to Corona and joined the American Legion and the Flanders Field VFW Post 150. He was also active in a number of local youth and church organizations.

Caminiti was a part of Board 4 for 40 years, and in much of that time, he was the chairperson of the Parks Services Committee. He helped to advocate not only for park improvements, but also low-income housing for seniors and improvement of youth activities.

The tribute to Caminiti was sponsored by City Council Member Julissa Ferreras.

The legislation also calls for the renaming of the corner of 41st Street and Queens Boulevard as Benjamin Wheeler Place, honoring the sixyear old former Sunnyside resident who was among the 20 first-graders murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn. last December.

Benjamin Wheeler, his parents David and Francine and brother Nate relocated from Sunnyside to the Connecticut town in 2007. Following the shooting rampage at the school on Dec. 14, 2012, Sunnyside residents turned out in droves to remember Benjamin Wheeler and the 25 other victims—including six educators— at a vigil.

The Wheeler family was also supported by Sunnyside residents through a fund-raiser held at Sunnyside Community Services in February. Proceeds were sent to Sandy Hook Promise, an organization which provides support services to the families of the massacre victims as well as survivors.

City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer sponsored the renaming request for Benjamin Wheeler, who also called for the renaming of the intersection of 51st Street and 43rd Avenue in memory of a victim of another heinous crime, Louis Rispoli.

Rispoli was a gay rights advocate and long-time resident of the Woodside/ Sunnyside area who was brutally beaten by three unidentified individuals early on the morning of Oct. 20, 2012. The 62-year-old man died five days later from his injuries.

As of press time, the suspects in the fatal beating remain at large and the investigation is ongoing.

Van Bramer also supported the following additional renaming requests:

• the corner of 41st Street and 48th Avenue as Carlo A. Lanzillotti, honoring the World War II veteran and former state senator active in the American Legion Blissville Post 727, the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, the Republican County Committee, 37th Assembly District and the Woodside Republican Club;

• the corner of Jackson Avenue and Purves street in Long Island City as Sculpture Street, commemorating the SculptureCenter, originally opened in 1928 but relocated to the location—a former trolley storage facility— in 2001;

• the corner of 44th Street and Queens Boulevard as Sunnyside Gardens Arena Way, honoring the defunct entertainment venue which—from its opening in the 1920s to demolition in 1977—featured wrestling, boxing, roller derby and a campaign stop for then-Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy in 1960; and

• the block of 38th Street between Greenpoint and 48th avenues in Long Island City as Jerry Ingenito Way, honoring the late long-time youth basketball coach who worked with St. Raphael’s CYO and Christ the King High School’s program.