Joe Paterno's legacy

Panel: JoPa won't get street named after him

Brooklyn Daily
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A community panel sacked a plan to rename a Sheepshead Bay street after a native son: scandal-scarred Penn State coach Joe Paterno.

Fans of Paterno, who died of lung cancer in January, proposed renaming E. 23rd Street between Avenues S and T — the block where he grew up — after the gridiron great, but Community Board 15 blind-sided the request on Tuesday.

Chairwoman Theresa Scavo said the late icon’s legacy fell short of the goal line: street renamings only go to residents who leave a lasting impact on their communities, she explained.

Paterno may have done great things in Pennsylvania, but he did nothing in Brooklyn, Scavo claimed.

“What kind of impact did he have here?” Scavo said. “His career was at Penn State. The street renaming should take place in Pennsylvan­ia.”

But the Hall of Famer affectionately known as “JoePa” wasn’t the only person who got snubbed.

The community board also unanimously rejected proposals to rename streets after Rabbi Samuel Fink, the longtime leader of Young Israel of Bedford Bay on Brown Street, and Daniel Sabatino — a former governor of the Kiwanis Club’s Brooklyn chapter, Elks Lodge member and owner of Sabatino Funeral Home on Avenue U in Gravesend.

More than 400 streets in the city were renamed after 9-11 victims and heroes — including a portion of Richards Street in Red Hook that was renamed “Seven in Heaven Way” in honor of a team of firefighters who died while responding to the terrorist attack — a decision that drew the ire of city Atheists.

But the practice stirred other controversies: Councilmembers were vilified for rejecting a proposal to rename a portion of Gates Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant after black activist Sonny Carson in 2007. Since then, the city has accepted fewer and fewer street-renaming nominations from community boards, Scavo said, claiming that all three of the recommendations the Board proposed last year were rejected.

Paterno went to Good Shepherd School in Marine Park and worked as an usher at Ebbets Field.

He won a record 409 college football games over 46 seasons with the Pen State Nittany Lions before the 85-year-old was forced to retire in the wake of a child sex scandal involving one of his longtime coaches.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at

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Reader Feedback from Marine Park says:
Although I do not personally believe that fame or celebrity alone should warrant the co-naming of a street, nor that the behavior of Joe PA's assistant coach should negate his accomplishments, I can't say whether co-naming E 23rd St for Paterno is appropriate or not. I think the views of the local residents should determine that. On the other hand, I was shocked by the CB 15 denial of a request to co-name Gerritsen Ave at Ave U for Mary Powell. A longtime president of the Madison Marine Civic Assoc and selfless community volunteer recognized by BP Marty Markowitz as a "True Daughter of Brooklyn", Senator Golden as a '2009 Woman of the Year', Councilman Lew Fidler as "an honest broker for the community .... with no other agenda than to make our neighborhood a better place", and by one Dean of Columbia University as a woman with a "rare sense of public responsibiliy" to whom "literally thousands of persons owe a debt of gratitude", co-naming Mary's corner seems like a no-brainer. I am baffled by the Board's position, which seems inconsistent with the views of the community and its leaders. The fact that the Bay News focused only on the celebrity of Paterno is a sad example of misplaced values in a commmunity that deserves more from their local newspapers.
May 3, 2012, 10:34 pm

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