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Infamita! Little Italy flag gone

Bronx Times

The borough president is seeing red over a missing white, green and red Italian flag.

But folks in the borough’s Little Italy are happy to see this particular flag gone.

BP Ruben Diaz Jr has slammed the Department of Transportation for paving over an Italian flag painted into oval in the heart of the borough’s famed neighborhood on Arthur Avenue and 187th St.

But local business owners say they are relieved to see the landmark, which had become cracked and worn down over the years, put to rest.

The concrete oval emblem filled with the traditional green, white and red national colors disappeared overnight on Monday Nov. 18 and Nov. 19 when a DOT work crew covered it with asphalt as part of an ongoing effort to improve the street.

‘Welcome mat’ gone

Hearing the news, Diaz sent an angry letter to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn, ripping the city agency for “thoughtlessly” tearing out the nabe’s “welcome mat.”

The BP demanded DOT reinstall the concrete oval to its full Italian glory and cover the cost of its replacement.

“The Arthur Avenue section of the Bronx is one of the most famous tourist attractions our city has to offer,” he wrote, “and it needs to be made whole again.”

But local business owners say the landmark has not been even close to “whole” for years.

The flag painting was so worn down that it was unrecognizable, said Frank Franz, executive director of the Belmont Business Improvement District (BID), comprised of 15 nearby businesses, many of them Italian-American.

“It was an embarrassment seeing that thing every day,” said Franz.

Wear and tear

The flag was so cracked that the words once etched around it in metal letters —“the good taste of tradition” —were unreadable before the DOT repair project, Franz said.

Franz said he has not heard any complaints from local shop owners, and added that the repaving has made the street safer.

“It looks far better now,” he said. “You can drive over it without wrecking your car.”

Restoring the flag

Diaz’s office agreed that the flag had fallen into disarray.

“The answer is not to get rid of it,” said spokesman John DeSio, citing the neighborhood’s distinct flavor that draws tourists and those in search of fine Italian dining. “The answer is to fix it with something substantial.”

A DOT spokesperson said the agency has yet to receive a formal request to reinstall the flag, but would be open to communtity input.

Diaz Jr.’s letter demands that the city agency reinstall the concrete flag as soon as this Spring.

Ben Kochman can be reached via e-mail at BKochman@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394

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