Controversy Surrounds Renaming Of Brooklyn Street After Italian Community Activist

Borough Park Leaders Concerned Over Ties To Italian Army

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.


One Comment

  1. michael d. says:

    Both Zachary and Mary Sansone seem to have done wonderful things for the community and it would make sense that a vote should go through the community board to decide the proper way to give them the honor they deserve. Though I have not yet been privliged yet to look into it and appreciate and hopefully learn from their charitable ways, I definately would like to. If I was on the board resposible for deciding whether to name a street after them, I think it would be irresponsible not to look into it more thoughly.

    Perhaps I misunderstood, but it does not seem to me that anyone protested in any way renaming the street. It seems they asked for time, and not an estraordinary amount of time, to look into the merits or otherwise and decide if naming the street after him would be the appropriate way to recognize Mr. Sansone’s achievemants.

    Without knowing much, I assume it will go through. I am happy that the Community Board puts the extra effort to prperly evaluate the things that go on in this diverse community that I am proud to be part of for many many years.

    I hope that they will continue to give of themselves for us and that we can all be a little more patiant and understanding of eachother. Perhaps we all must be a little more careful how we say things so they should not be misunderstood (which may have been the case here,) and perhaps we must all not be so quick to jump at every word before we try to give a little grace. I think most of us are well meaning.

    1. william says:

      finally, rationality

  2. Luca says:

    An Assmeblymen’s role is to serve the multicultural community, and to merely pander to the possible hypersensitivities & insecurities which may be peppered within a single group. Brother Dov Hikind is well aware of this. He simply needs to start breathing life into this understanding. Fanning the flames of divisiveness, in this day and age, when you have the choice of applauding a champion of compassionate intercultural bridge-building is work toward stunting our evolution as a collective human race.

  3. Rosemarie says:

    I am appalled and offended by several of these comments. Both Zachary and Mary Sansone have provided over 43 years of service to not only to Boro Park, but all of New York City. One of the reasons I am outraged about the opposition in naming the street Zachary Sansone is because he was always fighting for “America” and worked his entire life to help others. Although the non-profit organization founded by both Zachery and Mary Sansone is named C.I.A.O (Congress of Italian American Organization) they never turned their back or closed their doors regardless of anyone’s ethnic background or religion. In addition to C.I.A.O. they founded C.U.R.E (Community Understanding for Racial and Ethnic Equality) which was created to reduce ethnic and racial tension and conflict while promoting mutual respect and understanding among diverse groups. Zachary and Mary Sansone worked too hard for peace and equality in the community not to discriminate or segregate. The street in which Zachary served for several years has earned the name Zachery Sansone!

    I agree with Giovanni…streets and ramps being named after celebrities and people who were tragically killed has never been questioned, yet some one who SERVED our community is being frowned upon???? So before people question Zachary’s honor to this country, do your homework.

    1. william says:

      I can’t understand why nobody gets it….I didn’t read or see anywhere that anybody at the board meeting or being interviewed on this issue frowned or said any thing negative about the Sansone’s dedication and commitment to the community. All they were saying was that before they vote on naming the street more research should be done on Mr. Sansone’s military service, since the Italian military did fight our soldiers. And I find it amazing that the commentators made this into a Jewish/Italian issue when it is a pure American issue. For the sake of our WW 2 veterans who were wounded in this war why can’t the councilman or the family come up with some positive statements from Mr. Sansone that he may have said after the war in regards to the Mussolini regime. Or better yet what about posting something in this forum from a WW 2 military historian removing any doubt about his service. Instead most comments are nothing more than Anti-Semitic rants, which doesn’t make it any easier to calm this issue.

      Another interesting point the Daily News printed this story on Monday as well as on their website which has comments. The Daily News didn’t show a picture of the Rabbi therefore the comments were not Anti-Jewish, on the other hand the Channel 2 piece showed the Rabbi and the Anti-Semites crawl out of their holes. I hope the haters are not Christian because it would embarrass us real Christians to no end…The Sansone’s did some magnificent things in our community let’s not dilute Zachary’s memory with rants of hate..

      1. Rodin says:

        You’re the one who doesn’t ‘get it.’ You’re in DEEP denial. Nothing has to be said. Certain actions and their motivations are simply transparent. No explanation needed.

        Hikind is a notorious, despicable Zionist rabble-rouser, a bigoted bully, elected because the Orthodox vote in block.

        You are nothing but an apologist for the worst of them.

      2. J says:

        Granted, this is an American issue as you’ve expressed. But, I gotta ask, whose asking besides Assemblyman Dov Hikind & Rabbi Chaim Israel, and on whose behalf are they asking – all Americans? I really don’t think so. Of the 61 comments, exactly which ones do you find to be antisemitic and hateful. I’ve detected mild agitation and critique and nothing more.

      3. Rodin says:

        See, J, you donj’t “get it” either.

        To William and his kind, ANY criticism of Jews, Jewish matters or Israel or its policies automatically makes one antisemitic and a “jew hater”. If you happen to be Jewish, you’re labeled “self-loathing”.

        But William is a “real Christian” and, as it goes, “real Christians” believe it’s better to back Jews because it will be better when “real Christians” take over the “Promised Land,” Israel. In theory, Jews will be easier to convert into “real Christians” than Muslims. Think I’m making this up? Look it up.

        Except I don’t believe “William” is any kind of Christian, “real” or not. He’s a poseur, probably a stealth Jew, maybe even Hikind or Israel himself.

  4. Jean-Baptiste L. Charlot, MD says:

    Let’s hope that this be no hatred in disguise. Territotialism, like for the fish, is just that: self-centeredness, jealousy. We should pray that, at the conclusion of their inquiry, when the busy-body rabbi comes empty-handed, justice will prevail in favor of a man who dedicated his life to helping others in need. Mr. Sansone lived his life true to Eistein wonderful prescription: “”A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.” (Albert Einstein, 1954):
    To conclude, may the rabbi above remember: “A patriot is someone who loves his country dearly, and that is commendable. A nationalist, too many times on the other hand, is someone who hates other people’s country or resents their citizens’ fame”. And that is despicable.

    1. Rodin says:

      ” A nationalist, too many times on the other hand, is someone who hates other people’s country or resents their citizens’ fame”.

      Isn’t this what AmeriiKKKans call “Manifest Destiny,” the Monroe ‘Doctrine’, their SPECIAL CHARACTER ?

  5. william says:

    you are right I apologize for calling you a hater

  6. william says:

    your self esteem must be very low for you to be that jealous

  7. william says:

    I wouldn’t suspect that a hater like you ever opens a bible

    1. The Facts says:

      Name calling does not answer the question posed in the comment nor refute the answer. By the way, not a fan of fiction.

    2. Rodin says:

      Your “holy” Bible is is full of nothing BUT hate. Haven’t YOU read it … or did you just watch the movie?

    3. Rodin says:

      BTW, you wanna see hate, anger, bitterness? Take a close look at this “rabbi’s” face, oozing disgust. That face the very picture of Hate!

  8. M.A.D says:

    Nobody cares about this. Enough already!! The war was over half a century ago, everyone needs to move on, holding up things will not change anything…Get a life before your life expires..

    1. zsender says:

      tell that to the WW2 wounded veterans

    2. Rodin says:

      Jews do. They care about anything that will forward their agenda.

  9. Rodin says:

    If this “comment is awaiting moderation”, I’M RIGHT!

    BTW, where’s the original? This a PS.

  10. Mazrub says:

    It seems to me that there are multiple voices here, many of which aren’t reading whats actually happening. Although many Italian troops saved many Jews, there were others that persecuted them. Therefore, there should be no problem with the request of community leader to simply LOOK INTO Mr. Sansone’s role as a soldier.

    The fact that there seems to be backlash as a result of these requests for additional information does show the ugly face of the anti-Jewish sentiment which is prevalent in every controversial issue pertaining to this community. This sentiment has showed its face at many local Community Board meetings when the issue had nothing to do with religion but resulted in diatribes by residents which bordered on anti-semitic simply due to the fact that they were addressing a predominantly Jewish crowd and felt that they were outnumbered.
    I think its time to face the realities that the neighborhoods are changing and the Jewish community has a right to questions and request information about decisions affecting their community.

    1. Rodin says:

      “I think its time to face the realities that the neighborhoods are changing and the Jewish community has a right to questions and request information about decisions affecting their community.”

      Right on! It’s not ‘THEIR community’. It’s THE community.

      “The neighborhoods are changing.” Get used to it. ADAPT! Stop the “Chosen People” attitude and assimilate. IT’S AMERICA, not Israel.

      PS –
      BTW, I’m an ethnic (nonreligious, non-practicing, realist) JEW.

      1. william says:

        “BTW, I’m an ethnic (nonreligious, non-practicing, realist) JEW’

        you forgot to add the words Bitter and angry

      2. Rodin says:

        Angry, yes. Bitter, no. Why shouldn’t I be angry when I see “my people” behave like the the oppressors who abused them.

    2. Ant928 says:

      That’s my point “The Jewish community should do this…the Jewish community should do that…” Why is it always “The Jewish Community”…can’t it just be “The Community”?

      1. Rodin says:

        Couldn’t agree more. Read my comment above? i’m flattered.

        The problem is the “Rabbi” (teacher) is a Jew before he is a New Yorker, a Jew before an American.

  11. Ant928 says:

    From the 30MAY11 New York Times:

    One veteran Jewish community activist insists that’s not an excuse.

    “My head exploded when I read the bio,” said former Brooklyn Community Board 12 member Chaim Israel. “He was fighting for fascist Italy on the wrong side of the battlefront.”

    The Community Board vote on the issue was postponed after Israel and others voiced their opposition. A new vote is set for the end of June.

    william…who’s making this a Jewish thing…Dov Hikind and Rabbi Chaim Israel…TWO JEWS!!!

    1. william says:

      you are a despicable ANTI SEMITE…the community board is not a jewish organization..his comments were not about a jewish issue…

    2. william says:

      is Ant short for anti-semite?

      1. Ant928 says:

        No it’s short for Antony actually. I merely posted the Rabbi’s quote to show who was making this a Jewish issue…and his overreaction and self centered attitude. “My head nearly exploded”? Really? Give me a break.

        However william since you are now resorting to false accusations and name calling I think I proved my point.

  12. Z says:

    I am appalled at the lack of respect one can show to someone who has done such great things for the community. This is about a person dedicating their life to helping others and striving to make a better community. The idea behind a draft is that you do not have a CHOICE, and in this case despite being an american citizen he was forced into fighting in an italian army. That is despicable in itself, and now to not get the respect he deserves because of Rabbi Israel is beyond me. Mark my words, this street will be renamed in Zachary Sansone’s honor, despite the Rabbi’s false claims.

  13. p says:,,, & .

  14. william says:

    very interesting and sick just show an easily identifiable jew discussing an all american issue and the haters crawl out of the woodwork and create a jewish issue where no one exists…ask any WW2 veteran Italian, jewish or any background and he will tell you that they don’t want a street named after a soldier that fought against our flag….

    1. Ant928 says:

      Who’s to say he fought? He was a lawyer! By your logic we should blame anyone who lived in Italy between 1922 and 1942 should be blamed because “they were there”. Israelis must serve two years in the military…are they all to blame for the atrocities inflicted on the Palestinians? Certainly some are non-combatants.

      Or is questioning the ideas of someone not allowed anymore if the person is Jewish?

      1. william says:

        no…the issue is naming a street after him….nobody condemmed him..and by the way i’m not are the one that’s making this into a jewish issue..and yes, his bio said that he fought in yogoslavia

      2. Rodin says:

        Fought or not is a non-issue. What he CONTRIBUTED To NY IS. Unfortunately most Jews are Jews before they are Americans.

        My own grandmother, in the 40’s, used to recruit American Jews to go settle in Palestine.


        “SOMEBODY had to recruit.” Them’s the likes of Rabbi Israel and Assemblyman Dov Hikind.

  15. prvie says:

    All Rabbi Israel said is that we should table (postpone) our decision until we can verify the facts. There is no reason why such a sane remark should bring out the “Jew Haters” in this community. By the way Ann, wake up, the U.N. (United Nations) are anti-American and definitely anti-Israel; just look at their track record!

    1. Ant928 says:

      By the’s ANT…not ANN. Glad to see you read too.

      I love the way everyone who questions is a Jew Hater…does that make all of “you” Jew Lovers?

      And who the H*ll is Rabbi Israel anyway? What right does he have to question and block this? Sure, he’s entitled to his opinion but isn’t this a government decision? Problem is Dov Hikind is in his pocket and don’t care that (1) Boro Park is part of BROOKLYN and (2) there are non-Jews living in Brooklyn and *GASP* probably Boro Park.

      This isn’t “Little Israel”…quit acting like only the Jewish opinion matters!

      1. Rodin says:

        These whiners, wailers and complainers should all move to Kiryas Joel where they can ALWAYS have it THEIR way AND LIVE OFF THE US AND STATE GOVERNMENTS to boot.

        Next time you worry about Mexicans mooching, check THIS out.
        A Village With the Numbers, Not the Image, of the Poorest Place

        Halakhah = Sharia

    2. sk says:

      no one brought up anything about jews being the “Chosen People” other than you nad other jew haters! and all your other anti semetic comments? you have alot of anger management issues!

    3. Rodin says:

      It’s THE rationalization and justification for their every claim and excuse for every aberration. It doesn’t have to be “brought up.” It’s the essence of their existence.

      They spit in America’s face when they couldn’t survive a day without American support, military assistance and empowerment. We hold them to no accountability whatsoever and cuddle them in their most heinous crimes.

      Wanna reduce the deficit? Drop support of Israel. It will also do away with trillion dollar Arabian crusades and high oil prices.

      I have every right to be angry. I manage my anger by speaking “truth to power.”

      You’re in denial (or blind or ignorant or maybe just biased).

      “Every time anyone says that Israel is our only friend in the Middle East, I can’t help but think that before Israel, we had no enemies in the Middle East.” ~ JOHN SHEEHAN

  16. Ant928 says:

    Hear hear!

  17. Ant928 says:

    And let’s talk about research! Can’t find much on Rabbi Israel but Dov Hikind:

    – Supports racial profiling of those appearing to be Middle Eastern decent.

    – Denounced the movie “The Passion of the Christ” saying it would result in “Anti Semitism and bigotry…for the so called sin of the Crucifixion of Jesus” (news flash – Pope Benedict stated in his book the Jews “as a whole” were cleared by the Nostra Aetate in 1965 and that the Crucifixion was the fault of the “Jewish High Council and a select few Jews”. How can you forgive someone for something they didn’t do?)

    – He was a support of the Jewish Defense League….labelled a right wing terrorist group by the FBI.

    – He has called the UN Anti-American and Anti-Israel.

    – He has stated same sex marriage will inevitably lead to incest – “If we authorize gay marriage in the state of New York, those who want to live and love incestuously will be five steps closer to achieving their goals as well.” (NY Observer 11/22/08).

    And we’re not sure about WHO’S record? Look in the mirror sir!

    1. william says:

      i haven’t seen anybody naming a street after him

      1. Ant928 says:

        Nor should they!

  18. 2gruesome2b says:

    what should disturb the rabbi is that so many of his brethren were communists or communist sympathizers. watching the leon charney report on public tv one night, i heard the host chatting with a female guest, who stated, when discussing the politics of brooklyn in the 1930s, “why leon, you know we (the jews) were all communists in those days”. maybe the rabbi forgets italy surrendered in 1943, two years before nazi germany was conquered. maybe he forgets it took us 45 years or so to conquer the soviet union, and its reign of terror.

    1. william says:

      and there are self hating jews like this guy Rodin

      1. Rodin says:

        No, a realist, liberated.

  19. Giovanni says:

    As an American-Italian who was born and raised in the neighborhood we are talking about, I can say that I don’t even care about street-naming or even the Congress of Italian American Organizations.
    However I am so sick and tired of the hypocrisy of the Jewish Community. What this REALLY comes down to is that this is Borough Park, and it is “their” neighborhood, and although they do not want to say this out loud, the Jewish Community does NOT want a street in THEIR neighborhood named after anyone but a Jewish person.
    We all know it, yet we are not “allowed” to say it for fear of being branded a “Jew-Hater” or “Anti-Semitic”.
    And the fact that the Rabbi even feels the need to downplay Mr. Sansone’s work and contributions to the area, wondering if he did “enough” to warrant an American street naming, has he looked around the area at all?
    You have 16th Avenue named after the actor Vincent Gardenia, Rutherford Place named after Louis Graziuso (a long time plumbing supply shop owner), or hey, why not ask what Christopher Colombus did for America since 18th Avenue is renamed for him?
    And I have to ask this uncomfortable question: Does he also feel bothered by the naming of the “Ari Halberstam Memorial Ramp” on the Brooklyn Bridge? I mean, what did this 16 year old kid do for “America” that he had an on ramp named after him, besides being shot and killed there?
    Let’s be brutally honest here.
    I’m surprised the Rabbi didn’t imply that there was some mob connection to Sansone since he’s an Italian from Brooklyn!

    1. Teacher says:


    2. william says:

      he was killed by a HATER just like you are. But the ones that killed him don’t love you either

  20. Herbie Original Situation Raskin says:

    The Rabbi is absolutly right!!!

  21. Rodin says:

    Give me some news.

  22. Scott says:

    Since when do we care about naming streets after criminals. No one wanted to investigate the past history of “Sean Bell Way”

    1. Teacher says:

      I was thinking the same thing.

    2. The Facts says:

      Agree. The local “community board” appointed by the Queens Borough President pushed it and Quinn had her City Council hacks rubber stamp it and the lord high mayor signed it. All for “diversity.” What a joke!

  23. Michael Black says:

    Rabbi Israel is upset because they aren’t naming a street after him.

  24. Alan Lucibello says:

    Rabbi Israel should investigate the history of the Italian Army’s opposition to
    Mussolini’s policies toward the Jews. In fact, the Italian military and diplomatic corps
    were responsible for saving about 40,000 Jewish people in Italian occupied France,
    Yugoslavia and Greece. Their actions were in direct opposition to Mussolini’s
    attempt to comply with Hitler’s request for those people. Rabbi Israel can verify this
    information by looking up the film The Righteous Enemy, directed by Joseph
    Rochlitz, whose father was saved from the Nazis by the Italian military.

    1. william says:

      This is not about Jews and Italians this is about America, all the Rabbi is saying is that more researcdh should be done before we nname a street after a former officer of the Italian Army during WW2. My dad, a WW2 veteran received a purple heart and was wounded in Yogoslavia during WW2. Most of the above comments are so obvious anti-Jewish and that scares me..

    2. HARLEM GOING HAM says:


Comments are closed.

More From CBS New York

Get Our Morning Briefs

Watch & Listen LIVE