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The ‘crossroads’ of the Belmont community now boasts the name of the man who spent many years of his life helping the neighborhood.
After over 35 years of devoting his time and efforts to improve the neighborhood that he called home, Joseph Zinzi passed away in 2007, leaving behind a legacy of hard work and countless memories. In honor of his work, the corner of Arthur Avenue and E. 187th Street is now also known as Joseph Zinzi Place.
On Saturday, March 19 in Ciccarone Park on E. 188th Street, over 200 guests, including members of Zinzi’s family, gathered to honor the life and accomplishments of the late activist. Frank Franz and Jerome Raguso of the Belmont Business Improvement District arranged for the ceremony to take place in the recently renovated park, a project that was fought for by Zinzi.
A bill sponsored by Councilman Joel Rivera to rename the street was approved by Mayor Bloomberg on December 28, 2009. The only obstacle remaining was a date to have the ceremony, and Joe Cicciu, executive director of the Belmont/Arthur Avenue Local Development Corporation and Zinzi’s longtime friend, felt that St. Joseph’s Day was the proper day to have the ceremony.
“One day my wife and I were walking on City Island when an old-friend suggested St. Joseph’s Day,” Cicciu said. “The day is fitting because it was his name day and a day he always celebrated.”
The ceremony was kicked-off with a performance by the famous doo-wop group The Belmonts, who had everyone in and around the park singing along to some of Zinzi’s favorite songs, the sounds that used to fill the streets of the Belmont community during the 1950s and 1960s.
Elected officials who had worked with Zinzi before his passing recalled the hard work that he provided for the community, and Congressman Serrano remembered him as a man who opened his arms to anyone.
“Joe saw changes in the Belmont community, but he didn’t fight them, he embraced them,” Serrano said. “He was so proud to be Italian-American, but he wanted everyone to be proud of who they were and come together in this wonderful melting pot that we call America.”
Councilman Joel Rivera, who helped sponsor the event, was honored to have worked with Zinzi as a member of the city council’s 15th District.
“When I first took office Joe was one of the first people to come visit me,” Rivera said. “From that point on we developed a partnership in keeping the strong traditions alive in the Belmont community, and it was an honor to have worked with him. This street naming is dedicated to a man who loved his community.”
Before the new sign was unveiled on the corner of Arthur Avenue and E. 187th Street, Zinzi’s wife Carol, daughter Jill and brother Anthony, were presented with a replica of the street sign to keep for themselves, and Carol Zinzi was almost at a loss for words.
“I was anticipating this day for so long,” she said. “I feel like it’s a new beginning for Joe. Now that the day came it’s hard to really explain how much of an honor this is for our family.”
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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