BAY RIDGE — It was a great honor for a Brooklyn community leader when the City Council recognized former State Sen. and City Councilmember Vincent Gentile at this year’s Italian Heritage Celebration held on Thursday, Oct. 10 in the Council chambers at City Hall.
The event brought together elected officials, community leaders and proud Italian-Americans from throughout the borough and beyond, celebrating their culture in anticipation of the 75th Columbus Day Parade.
City Councilmember Paul Vallone proudly introduced his father, Peter Vallone, Sr., who himself served on the New York City Council from 1974 to 2001. He was the majority leader of the Council from 1986 to 2001 and the first speaker of the city Council from 1990 to 2001 as well as being the 1998 Democratic nominee for governor of New York.
The elder Vallone offered the benediction, saying, “Thank God the father almighty for giving Christopher Columbus the courage and the bravery to prove that the world was round, not flat, and that if you traveled far enough you would not fall off, as everyone believed.”
Victoria Pinto, a student at LaGuardia High School of Music and Performing Arts, sang both the American and Italian national anthems before students from the Landrum School of the Performing Arts performed a dance routine.
Vallone introduced Consul General of Italy Francesco Genuardi as the voice and face of the Italian people who would be leading the Columbus Day Parade. “It is with extraordinary pride serving Italy in New York City,” said Genuardi. “It is the highest honor and the highest challenge one can imagine. And I can express with three words, pride, gratitude and enthusiasm,” he added.
City Councilmember Justin Brannan introduced Gentile. “Despite my Irish-sounding last name, three sets of my great-grandparents immigrated to the United States from southern Italy so events like this are very important to me. The contributions Italian-Americans have made to this city, state and country simply cannot be questioned,” said Brannan.
“Vinnie Gentile has dedicated his entire life to public service and has earned his rightful place in a long tradition of hard-working, dedicated Italian-Americans who continue to make a difference. I was proud to honor him as a friend and a mentor who has made outstanding contributions to the legacy of Italian heritage in this great city of immigrants,” added Brannan.
Gentile, a Democrat, was born in Bay Ridge and attended Fort Hamilton High School. He graduated from Cornell University and received his Juris Doctorate from Fordham University.
He served as an assistant district attorney in Queens before entering politics in the mid-1990s. He won a State Senate seat in 1996 and won his City Council seat in 2003, holding it until 2017, when he left due to term limits.
Gentile said he was truly humbled to receive the honor. “I thank Councilmember Brannan for selecting me as an awardee at the Council’s Italian heritage event,” Gentile told this paper.
“I’m honored because as an Italian-American I realize that we stand on the shoulders of hardworking native Italians who came to America and accomplished so much in building the U.S.A.,” Gentile said. “Those contributions and our rich culture provide the basis for Italian-American pride.”
Other honorees at the event included Silvio Mazella who was introduced and presented with his award by Bronx City Councilmember Mark Gjonaj.