Dapolito, parks advocate, 82, dies

By Albert Amateau

Anthony Dapolito, a Villager born and bred and a Soho baker who served Community Board 2 for 50 years, fostered the establishment of Village parks and fought against threats to his beloved neighborhood, died on Wed. Jan. 2 the day before his 83rd birthday.

Weakened by a stroke in October of last year, he died of pneumonia in St. Vincents Hospital, according to his wife of 56 years, Frances.

“Tony Dapolito was a guardian angel for the Village where he spent all his life,” said former Mayor Ed Koch, a fellow Villager. “In 1956 he fought off efforts to despoil the Village when Robert Moses wanted to build an expressway across Manhattan.”

Known as the unofficial “Mayor of Greenwich Village,” he had an indelible influence on the neighborhood and served for many years on the First Precinct Community Council, which covers most of Lower Manhattan.

He was born in 1920, the same year his parents, Nunzio and Jennie Dapolito, established the family bakery, Vesuvio, named after the volcano near Naples in whose shadow they were born. The bakery opened on W. Broadway in the neighborhood that was later to be called Soho. Soon it moved around the corner to Prince St.

Tony’s working life was spent as a baker and small business owner. He began delivering bread to neighbors by the time he was five. He sold the bakery in April of this year when he accepted the fact that he was too frail to continue.

The day he died, loving neighbors placed flowery tributes in front of the bakery at 160 Prince St. and a sign on the front door said the new owners would re-open the shop in his honor after a renovation.

Henry Stern, former Parks Commissioner, recalled that he met Tony in 1962. “I was 26 and he was 41. He was on the earliest community boards and was the epitome of city activists. And he had a real job, a trade that he actually practiced every day. Now we have so many professional activists – meaning people who are not employed. Tony had deep community roots.”

Dapolito, appointed to Community Planning Board 2 in 1952, was the longest serving community board member in the city.

Following the tradition that city parks and playgrounds may be named only for people no longer living, the Thompson St. play ground on Spring St. was renamed Vesuvio in Tony’s honor in January of 2000.

“We were the only community to beat Bob Moses,” said Tony at the renaming ceremony attended by 100 neighbors and public officials. “We beat him three times, on this playground, on the Lower Manhattan Expressway [a proposed high-speed road along Broome St.] and on a housing project that would have leveled this part of the Village.”

Elected chairperson of the community board 12 times, he served as head of the board parks committee for many more years. He was instrumental in the establishment of many Village parks, including Seravelli park on Hudson St. between Gansevoort and Horatio Sts.

He married the girl next door, Frances Bianco, in 1946. “Her father and mine used to pal around together,” he said in a conversation earlier this spring. The two families were from the town of Mugnano del Cardinale, on the slopes of Vesuvio.

A consummate politician in creating consensus on civic issues, he maintained working relations and friendship with reformers including Koch, and Koch’s Tammany opponents including Carmine DeSapio.

Koch recalled that when he was mayor, Dapolito successfully lobbied to create a playground and seating area on Bleecker between Bank and W. 11th Sts. “He wanted a statue – a piece of sculpture representing ‘The Family’ put there,” Koch said. “It had to have my name on it since it was in my administration but the radicals in the neighborhood didn’t like me at all. So Tony had my name put on it very small,” Koch fondly recalled.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by their daughter, Jennie Delaney, a grandson and a brother, Joseph, of Boynton Beach, Fla.

Perazzo Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements. The funeral was at St. Anthony’s Church on Sat. July 5 and burial was in Calvary Cemetery in Queens.


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