Street co-naming honors late community icon
The hard work, dedication and kindness of education advocate Mafalda DiMango were remembered by family, friends, lawmakers, religious leaders and School District 20 officials who gathered for a ceremony Saturday afternoon marking the co-naming of a Bensonhurst street corner after her.
In a fitting tribute to DiMango, the co-naming took place at the intersection of 15th Avenue and 81st Street outside P.S. 204, the school that she attended as a child and where she maintained close ties until her death last year at the age of 91.
DiMango got her start as an education advocate when she served as Parent-Teacher Association president at P.S. 204 in the early 1960s. She then served as a member of Community School Board 20 and the District 20 Community Educational Council for more than 50 years.
The DiMango Family – Mafalda, her husband Anthony and their two daughters, Patricia and Joanne – lived on 81st Street down the street from the school for several years.
The street corner co-naming was approved by the City Council. Councilmember Justin Brannan sponsored the legislation.
“It was an absolutely flawless day for a street renaming ceremony in honor of a community icon,” Brannan told this newspaper via email. “They say a teacher affects eternity; for they can never truly tell where their influence stops. It’s very possible this proverb was written with Mafalda in mind. The corner of 81st Street & 15th Avenue will now forever be known as Mafalda DiMango Way’ and that sign will look over everyone, especially the children of District 20, the same way Mafalda did.”
While touting DiMango’s accomplishments, which included overseeing major changes in classroom instruction, working to get nutritious lunches onto school lunchroom menus and being one of the first school board members in New York City to push for child abuse prevention programs in schools, several of the speakers talked about her kindness and her respect for others, according to people who attended the ceremony.
“We do a lot of street namings. But this is a woman who deserves to have a borough named after her,” said Carlo Scissura, president of the New York Building Congress, said following the ceremony.
Scissura, who served alongside DiMango on Community School Board 20, was the person who brought the idea for the street corner co-naming to Brannan. Scissura described DiMango as “a wonderful person who focused on family, education, community and always giving back.”
Among the faces in the crowd at the ceremony were: Assemblymember Peter Abbate, state Sen. Andrew Gounardes, former council member Vincent Gentile, Community Board 11 Chairperson Bill Guarinello, District 20 Superintendent Karina Costantino, Dyker Heights Civic Association President Fran Vella-Marrone, Monsignor David Cassato and Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello.
DiMango’s husband, Anthony DiMango, is a retired dentist. Their daughter, Patricia DiMango, a former New York State Supreme Court justice, is one of the stars of the hit CBS show “Hot Bench.” Their daughter Joanne DiMango-Orr is a retired educator. All three were on hand for the ceremony, along with several other family members.
DiMango-Orr called the ceremony bittersweet, but said it was wonderful for her family to hear speakers praising her late mother for her good works. “We knew it because we lived it,” she told this newspaper, adding that she and her sister knew from the time they were young that their mother was a special person.
“People respected and honored her. For me, that’s what matters the most,” DiMango-Orr said.