City heralds 500th anniversary of explorer’s arrival

On April 17, the city celebrated the 500th (quincentenary) anniversary of Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano’s 1524 arrival in New York Bay. The explorer’s voyage aboard the La Dauphine was funded by King Francis I of France. 

The anniversary was marked by a huge commemorative ceremony at the base of the 27-foot-tall bronze Verrazzano statue in Battery Park. The event was sponsored by the Italian American Leadership Forum, which is an association of major Italian American organizations.

The IALF was founded by Angelo Vivolo, former president and later chairman of the Columbus Citizens Foundation and a current trustee of the City University of New York. Honored guest speakers included Gov. Kathy HochulFabrizio Di Michele, consul general of Italy in New York; Cedrik Fouriscot, consul general of France in New York; and Susan Donoghue, NYC commissioner of parks. IALF Chairman Michael G. Polo delivered closing remarks. Also in attendance was Edouard Philippe, France’s former prime minister, who currently serves as mayor of LeHavre, the French city where Verrazzano started his long journey.

French and Italian consuls general, center. Photo courtesy of France Consulate in New York

We were happy to join the festivities as an honorary member of the Italian Historical Society of America. One of the IALF speakers mentioned the key role IHSA founder and President John N. LaCorte had in ensuring the statue was relocated properly and well maintained. Bay Ridge business executive George Prezioso, a trustee with the Bay Ridge Historical Society, was also in attendance. We later attended a reception on the 12th floor of the city landmarked building at One Broadway, which gives a commanding view of New York Harbor.

Over the years we were fortunate enough to attend several events coordinated by John LaCorte and his executive secretary Terry Rosen. John’s imprint is all over Bay Ridge. He is credited with convincing New York State Gov. Averell Harriman to name the new bridge across the Narrows in honor of Giovanni Verrazzano. If you go into John Carty Park on Fort Hamilton Parkway, you see a large bronze raised medallion of Verrazzano embedded  into the base of the flagpole. Travel not far up the road to John Paul Jones Park and, once again, is another bronze medallion within  a long granite stone wall, which also memorializes John N. LaCorte. If you didn’t know it, LaCorte also convinced the federal government to make the celebration of Christopher Columbus Day a national holiday.                                                     

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