Words were exchanged by local pols after Councilman Domenic Recchia proposed renaming 59th Street between 14th and 15th Avenues after recently deceased 40-year community activist Zachary Sansone. The controversy? Although Sansone was born in the United States he moved, with family, back to his parents’ homeland at the age of 12. He was drafted and served as a Lieutenant in the Italian Army during World War II, while Italy was at war with the United States and allied with Nazi Germany.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who is the son of Holocaust survivors, wants to investigate Sansone’s actions during the war before renaming the street. “He did a lot of good work in this country,” the state pol told the Daily News’ Reuven Blau. “But I think we have an obligation to find out what the facts are before there is a vote.”
“He went to the American Consulate and pleaded for an exemption, noting that he was a United States citizen,” his widow Mary, 94 told the Daily News. The article goes on to mention that “many backers say Sansone… was forced to serve after being drafted.”
Before returning to the United States after the war, Mr. Sansone helped rebuild his parents’ hometown of Sant’Antonio Abate, near Naples and became the town’s first democratically elected mayor.
He returned to New York in 1949, where he and his wife founded the Congress of Italian American Organizations. Zachary and Mary Sansone also founded several community centers for both children and seniors.
One person the couple helped, a young Domenic Recchia, didn’t forget. They helped him to find work during the summertime as a young man and employed his mother as a cook in a senior center.
The vote on whether or not to rename 59th Street after Mr. Sansone will take place at a Community Board 12 meeting at the end of June.
Councilman Recchia remains optimistic that it will pass.
Councilman Domenic Recchia represents Council District 47, which includes Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Gravesend, as well as part of Bensonhurst. He also serves as Chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind represents Assembly District 48, which includes parts of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Borough Park and Midwood.