Downtown Express file photo
Albert Capsouto in 2005
Hundreds pay honor to Capsouto’s memory
Several hundred friends and relatives of Albert Capsouto packed Tribeca Rooftop Tuesday night to commemorate the neighborhood restaurateur and community leader.
Capsouto died Jan. 19 at the age of 53, just two months after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
On Tuesday night, Capsouto’s friends recalled him as a welcoming host at Capsouto Frerès, the French restaurant he and his two brothers opened on Washington St. in 1980. They also remembered him as an advocate for small businesses, a patient philosopher and a fun-loving Fire Island denizen.
“There’s a recurring theme,” said Rocco D’Amato, former owner of the Bazzini grocery and nut shop, after half a dozen people had spoken. “Everyone felt he was their best friend.”
D’Amato was Capsouto’s mentor and encouraged him to join Community Board 1, where Capsouto served for 19 years. Madelyn Wils, former chairperson of C.B. 1, broke down as she described how Capsouto taught her life lessons, like when to press an issue and when to walk away. Wils said it used to bother her that Capsouto never married and had a family, but she eventually came to realize that he had plenty.
“We were his family,” Wils said, beginning to cry. “He was my brother.”
Former Councilmember Alan Gerson described one of the last times he spoke to Capsouto late last year. Gerson, who had recently lost his bid for reelection, intended to comfort Capsouto, but instead Capsouto wound up offering words of support to Gerson, encouraging him to never give up.
“That epitomizes Albert Capsouto,” Gerson said.
Several efforts are underway to permanently memorialize Capsouto. Shimon Zlotnikov, a Tribeca small business owner who described Capsouto as “my guardian angel,” donated $5,000 to start a scholarship fund at Stuyvesant High School, Capsouto’s alma mater. The first scholarship will be given out this year, likely to a student who demonstrates community service, and the fund is still accepting donations.
New York Downtown Hospital is also collecting donations in Capsouto’s memory.
Finally, Community Board 1 wants the city to rename Tribeca’s CaVaLa Park for Capsouto. Capsouto advocated for the park, which opened last year and takes its name from its boundaries: Canal, Varick and Laight Sts.
The Parks Dept. does not appear supportive of the renaming.
Julie Menin, C.B. 1 chairperson, argued the case this week to Bill Castro, Manhattan’s borough commissioner for parks.
“Many people can’t pronounce it,” Menin said of CaVaLa. “Many people don’t know what it stands for.”
Menin said Castro promised that if the CaVaLa renaming didn’t work out, he would try to find another park that could be renamed.
Cristina DeLuca, Parks spokesperson, said in an e-mail, “We’re going to be working with the community board to find an appropriate way to honor Mr. Capsouto in the neighborhood.”
— Julie Shapiro