The 2012 Bronx Columbus Day will pay tribute to two Italian-Americans who have made major contributions to the local community.
The parade committee has selected Phil Foglia, a community lawyer and Italian-American civil rights advocate, as its grand marshal for October’s parade and festivities, said chairman Tony Singorile.
Pat Cassano, a Throggs Neck resident and a first grade teacher at St. Francis Xavier School for more than two decades was named honorary grand marshal.
Foglia, a former Bronx assistant district attorney and federal prosecutor under Rudy Giuliani, is deputy inspector general for the New York State Inspector General’s office, a post he has held since 2009.
Foglia was also a board member of the Columbus Alliance, a group that was one of the prime sponsors of the Bronx Columbus Day Parade.
“I consider it a high honor, and the Bronx parade in particular has a lot of significance to me,” Foglia said. “I have worked for so long in the Italian-American community, but particularly in the Bronx in Belmont, where we established COBO (Council of Belmont Organizations) and worked on Italian social issues.”
Some of Foglia’s earliest Italian-American civil rights work was attempting to stop what many considered demeaning portrayals of Italian-Americans in films and television series like “The Godfather” and “The Untouchables” from being viewed on network or local television in the 1970s, he said.
Since 2009, he has led investigations into the New York State Racing and Wagering Commission and police labs in Nassau County, Foglia said.
Foglia has been a partner in a general practice law firm in White Plains from 1991 to 2009, a Queens assistant district attorney from 1988 to 1992, a speical assistant United States Attorney in the Organized Crime Strike Force and Public Corruption Unit in Manhattan from 1983 to 1988, the counsel to the Yonkers City Council president from 1993 to 1998, vice-president at SEBCO development from 1999 to 2006, pro bono chief counsel for the Italian-American Legal Defense and Higher Education Fund from 1987 to 2002, and legal counsel and co-chairman for the Bronx Special Olympics from 1977 to 2002.
Cassano has taught at St. Francis since the late 1980s, in the first grade for about 14 years and fourth grade for around 10 years, and was hired after extensive volunteer work in the Home School Association and library when her children started school there, she said.
She said she has now had “the privilege” of teaching both her daughter and her granddaughter in the first grade at St. Francis.
“Tony said that since both of his daughters are elementary school teachers, he sees how hard they work, and he thought it was fitting to honor an educator,” Cassano said. “I was totally shocked when he told me that I had been chosen, and the only thing I could think to say was yes, because it is such an honor.”