Generally Speaking: Two big Columbus Day Parades mark Italian heritage

A little rain didn’t dampen the hearty spirits at Brooklyn’s 33rd annual Columbus Day Parade along 18th Avenue (Cristoforo Colombo Boulevard) from 60th to 84th Street.  Once again, Jack Spatola and Carlo Scissura, the board chair and president, respectively, of the sponsoring Brooklyn Federation of Italian American Organizations, delivered an outstanding celebratory parade.

Spatola is also a superb educator. He is the principal of Public School 172 in Sunset Park, where his school has been repeatedly cited as one of the top grammar schools in the city. Scissura, who did a stellar job as the parade emcee, is also at the helm of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce which under his dynamic leadership has grown to one of the largest business groups in the state.

The 77th annual New York City Columbus Day Parade sponsored by the Columbus Citizens Foundation was held along Fifth Avenue from 42nd to 72nd Street. Since we are a member of the Knights of Columbus, we joined the Archbishop John Hughes Council 481 as they paraded up Fifth Avenue.

Behind the council’s banner were Grand Knight Vincent Gentile, former council head Tony Vesco and FatherStephen Giulietti of St. Bernadette’s Church on 13th Avenue and Father Guy Sbordone, the pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Church on 86th Street.

When we reached St. Patrick’s Cathedral, we were greeted by Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio who was doing double duty as the representative of Cardinal Dolan who was at the Vatican in Rome. Later along the parade route, we met Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello who recently served as grand marshal at the Children’s Ragamuffin Parade and more recently as one of the GM’s at the Brooklyn Columbus Day Parade.

While waiting for the Gotham parade to kickoff, we saw Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino being interviewed by a reporter. Also marching along with Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, city Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Public Advocate Tish James was City Councilmember Vinnie Gentile who I understand still heads the council’s Italian caucus.

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At the invitation of Dr. Milton Waner, a world-renowned vascular surgeon who heads the Vascular Birthmarks Institute at Lenox Hill Hospital, we attended the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation’s 20th anniversary ‘Mark of Beauty’ Gala held at the Hudson Theater in Manhattan.

My wife Janet and I were seated at the table with Dr. Waner and his family, and other guests. The foundation for the past two decades has been supporting families including children and adults who have been affected by a variety of vascular birthmarks such as hemangiomas and port wine stains.

It was founded by Dr. Linda Rozell-Shannon, PhD, who also serves as the current president. The next day we spent at the foundation’s annual conference at Lenox Hill which included daylong presentations and clinical sessions by leading physicians from across the country. The conference co-chairs were Dr. Roy Geronemus, Dr. Gregory Levitin and Dr. Robert Rosen. To donate or simply find out about the marvelous work this foundation has been doing, you can click on its website,

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