What’s in a name? In the end, it depends on whose name it is.
Some red flags were raised last week when a Coney Island principal announced plans to re-dedicate her refurbished auditorium in honor of City Councilmember Domenic Recchia’s late father.
At first glance, the move smacked of political payback since Recchia was the one who had secured the $100,000 in city funds needed for the auditorium’s rehab.
In the end, P.S. 100 Principal Katherine A. Maloney’s plans to honor the memory of Domenic Recchia Sr. were cancelled because she had not submitted the appropriate paperwork with the Department of Education (DOE), a spokesperson said.
Maloney, who told this paper that the November 19 celebration at the school, located at 2951 West 3rd Street, was cancelled because the school’s music teacher had the flu, said the dedication would be rescheduled for a later date.
The principal explained that Recchia had gotten the $100,000 in funding for P.S. 100’s auditorium back in 2006. The repairs, which included a complete overhaul of the auditorium’s electrical and air conditioning systems, as well as a new paint job, were completed over the summer, she said.
Maloney claimed that she and parent teacher association members saw no harm in naming the auditorium in honor of Recchia’s father, although the man had no obvious connections with the school.
At first, the school wanted to dedicate the auditorium to the councilman, but Recchia graciously declined the offer.
That’s when they thought of Recchia’s father, who passed away in 2006.
“It’s really a thank-you to Recchia,” said Maloney. “We are a family-oriented school. The councilman has a strong sense of family and we wanted to honor the person who taught him those values. [Recchia’s father] had a direct influence on who the councilman is today.”
Recchia was touched when he heard of their plans, she said.
Good intentions aside, news that part of a city school was going to be renamed for a relative of the councilman who had just given them $100,000 did not sit well with some political watchdogs.
“This is a purely personal choice,” said former Community Board 13 member and Coney Island civic activist Ida Sanoff. “Don’t you think there are people who have lived in the community who deserve to have part of a school renamed for them? I can think of any number of historical figures who deserve this kind of recognition.”
“It’s appropriate to name a street or city institution or a school for someone who has been active in the city, but that person has to have made some kind of civic contribution,” added Gene Russianoff, a spokesperson for the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG). “We have to see if Recchia’s dad passes that test.”
Domenic Recchia Sr., a Gravesend native, was a contractor who built homes in Brooklyn and Staten Island. In his off-hours, he was very active in Our Lady of Grace parish, as well as in various little leagues, friends said.
“He was a great man,” remembered Coney Island Democratic District Leader Delia Schack, who attended Domenic Recchia Sr.’s funeral. “He did a lot to keep local kids off the streets so they wouldn’t get in trouble.”
“He was very involved in the community. I learned everything from my father,” Councilman Recchia remembered. “He was a great believer in public school education and stressed to us the importance of volunteering.”
Recchia thought Maloney’s plans to rename the auditorium for his father was a “gracious” gesture, but a step that neither he nor anyone else in his office encouraged her to take. He did admit he and Maloney have known each other for over 10 years, when he was involved in Community School Board 21.
“[The auditorium dedication] is a good way to remember my father,” he said. “Kids should know that their parents can be role models, too.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said that they were reviewing Maloney’s re-dedication proposal.
--with Michele DeMeglio
©2008 Community News Group
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