A beacon of civic life and a key east Bronx elected official and political operative has passed.
Councilwoman Madeline Provenzano, who represented the communities of Throggs Neck, Zerega, and Morris Park, died at Calvary Hospital on Sunday, December 7. The cause was breast cancer, her daughter Maria Provenzano said.
The councilwoman was 78. She represented many east Bronx communities in the council from 1997 until 2005, when she was term-limited.
She served as chief-of-staff to Councilman Michael DeMarco for 19 years, learning the ropes of local government and City Hall.
Councilman James Vacca, who replaced Provenzano in the Council, said that her time working with DeMarco helped her get a lot accomplished when she was elected to that post.
“She certainly knew what buttons to push in city government to get things done”, said Vacca, adding, “that she liked to get to the point of a conversation or situation, and was a no-nonsense person”.
Her core concerns were youth and seniors, and she was a strong advocate of the arts, he added.
“She was fiercely independent and took positions that were independent of the power structure,” Vacca said, recalling how she twice endorsed the candidacy of Mayor Bloomberg, bucking the leadership of the Bronx Democratic party.
Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, who first came to know Provenzano while working for DeMarco, remembered being impressed by her.
“I realized what a competent, well-organized, ‘get it done’ type of person she was,” said the assemblyman, adding that she was a natural choice to replace DeMarco, who went on to be a State Supreme Court Justice. Benedetto ran her election campaigns.
Vacca recalled how they worked closely together when he was district manager, and remembered that she helped block a high school from being sited at the location of the old Interboro Theater on East Tremont Avenue, and got a senior center built on Boston Road.
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. recalled that she was one of the people who helped make the golf course at Ferry Point Park a reality.
“As a city council member Madeline helped make the east Bronx a better place, and was a champion for the creation of a new golf course at Ferry Point Park and a fighter for the needs of senior citizens and youth throughout the community,” he said.
“Madeline Provenzano was a strong women, a paragon of public service and a role model for other elected officials, and her spirit and conviction will be sorely missed,” he added.
Senator Jeff Klein recalled how he worked with Provenzano to get things done in the community.
“I’m proud that, together, we successfully fought for everything from attracting a-world class golf course to Ferry Point Park to pooling city and state funding to combat graffiti,” said Klein.
“Madeline was a wonderful leader and friend. My thoughts and prayers are with her family during this time.”
She first became active in local affairs in the 1970s, as an activist for her Zerega community, all while raising three children as a widowed single parent.
Provenzano was the mother of Maria, Anthony, and Christopher, her daughter said, adding that her son Christopher passed away a year and half ago. She had seven grandchildren and is survived by her current husband Nathan.
“Above all else, although she loved being a politician, her family always came first.” said her daughter Maria.