Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pete Pascale Place

In between First and Second avenues in East Harlem stands a street sign marking the intersection of Pete Pascale Place and 116th Street.

The nearby corner at Second Avenue, Pete Pascale's daughter Lois told documentarist
Zenobia Pintora, very special meetings once occurred.

“I'm crossing the street at the corner of 116th Street and Second Avenue to Sandy's Restaurant, which used to be Cinciotti's Pastry Shop, holding my father's hand. And in the distance I see Vito Marcantonio approaching us and I remember groaning to myself, 'Oh noooooo! Now we are going to have to stand on this corner and my father and Marcantonio are going to talk for a very long time.' And being a good little Italian girl, I knew I had to stand there quietly and not interrupt them.

“I wish I could remember what they were talking about.”

Pete Pascale was born in East Harlem in 1914. Like Vito Marcantonio, his grandparents emigrated from Basilicata in southern Italy. Like Marcantonio, he never left the neighborhood, which is one way to get a street sign posted in your honor.

Another way is to help people in that neighborhood. According to Lois - the performance artist
LuLu LoLo - Pascale walked into Haarlem House (“spelled the Dutch way, with two As)” one day to see what was going on at the center for neighborhood social work, “and it changed his life.”

He stayed on to volunteer, coached basketball and acted in plays until he resigned as executive director of the settlement house 50 years later.

Marcantonio's wife, LuLu remembers, worked there. “Miss Sanders, as we called her, was the nursery school teacher.” The future congressman from East Harlem worked alongside Miriam Sanders before marrying her.

“Marc's charisma made an impression on me even as a little girl,” LuLu told a
conference of the Vito Marcantonio Forum discussing the East Harlem representative's impact on the Puerto Rican people.

"My father always considered Marc his mentor and talked to me about Marc with deep admiration and love, but also with outrage at the way Marc was treated by those who opposed him, including the Catholic Church which refused to give Marc a funeral at our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.”

(drawing by Vince Evans, LuLu's son)