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Controversy Surrounds Renaming Of Brooklyn Street After Italian Community Activist

Borough Park Leaders Concerned Over Ties To Italian Army
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Assemblyman Dov Hikind

Assemblyman Dov Hikind (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A proposal to rename a street in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn in honor of a longtime Italian community activist has run into a roadblock.

Some community activists want to know more about the man’s record in the Italian army in World War II, reports CBS 2’s Pablo Guzman.

A street sign in Borough Park was on the verge of being renamed for Zachary Sansone, a founder of the Congress of Italian American Organizations, which he started with his wife, Mary. Zachary Sansone passed away last year. The sign was about to be approved for renaming, but then some questioned Zachary Sansone’s military service.

“I think we don’t have enough information as to what Mr. Sansone’s role was in the fascist Italian army during the second World War. And pending that information, I think this matter should be held in abeyance,” Rabbi Chaim Israel said.

Rabbi Israel and Assemblyman Dov Hikind objected to Community Board 12, about renaming 59th Street between 14th and 15th avenues until more could be learned about Sansone’s time with the Italian army.

“I think it’s outrageous!” Mary Sansone said.

Mary Sansone said her husband went to Italy when he was 12 and was drafted into the army. She said as an American citizen, he went to the American consulate to object — but was denied.

“Oh, he was against Mussolini! He had no choice!” Mary Sansone said.

“But we also know that he made it up to first lieutenant,” Rabbi Israel responded.

Mary Sansone attempted to clarify Rabbi Israel’s claims.

“No, no! The reason why he was first lieutenant is because he was a lawyer, and when you get drafted, you go according to your rank!” she said.

As for Zachary Sansone’s decades of community service, Rabbi Israel stopped short of downplaying all that he did for the area.

“Well he’s a very fine human being. He really was. And he deserves honors. The question is do we name an American street for him? That’s all,” Rabbi Israel said.

Mary Sansone said she is confident that the street will be renamed for her husband.

Community Board 12 put off the vote to rename the street for Zachary Sansone until the end of June.

Do you think Rabbi Israel is right to demand the information about Zachary Sansone or is he making something out of nothing? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

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