Little Italy honors Italian-American local legend, longtime prosecutor Phil Foglia with street renaming

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Phil Foglia’s childhood best friend and “A Bronx Tale” actor Chazz Palminteri honored his friend through anecdotes at a May 11 street renaming in Belmont.
Photo Adrian Childress

Former Bronx Assistant District Attorney Phil Foglia may have fought and won against many of NYC’s rogue gallery as a longtime prosecutor, but his legacy in Belmont’s Little Italy is one of a fighter for his fellow Italian Americans.

Phil Foglia died in 2020 at the age of 69 due to complications from COVID-19, but now East 189th Street and Belmont Avenue in Little Italy bears the name “Phil Foglia Way” recognizing Foglia’s advocacy for the Italian-American community and pride for his borough and beloved Yankees.

His childhood best friend and “A Bronx Tale” actor Chazz Palminteri shared anecdotes of his late friend at the street renaming earlier this month, which also included City Councilmember Oswald Feliz, whose district includes the Belmont area. According to Palminteri, the Phil Foglia way was through the three B’s: be good, be brief, be gone.

“I’ve been giving speeches and talking to people for like, I don’t know, over 30-35 years and people would say, ‘Oh, Chazz you give such great speeches’ and I would say, ‘Oh, thank you,’ but Phil would always write my speeches,” said Palminteri, who grew up on Belmont’s Arthur Avenue with Foglia. “I would always go to Phil and I would say ‘Phil, I gotta give a speech today’ … and he would say alright what is it, tell me the things, give me the bullet points and I’d give him the bullet points and he would say ‘OK, say this, say that, do it in this order’ and then he used to say to me Chazz don’t forget the three Bs — be good, be brief, be gone.”

In an interview with the Bronx Times following the Pelham Garden native’s death in April 2020, Palminteri called Foglia “a champion of Italian Americans.”

Phil Foglia
Belmont’s Little Italy section honored an Italian-American icon Phil Foglia with a street renaming earlier this month.

“Other than my dad, Phil was the greatest man I’ve ever met,” a heartbroken Palminteri told the Bronx Times. “He was a student of history and he was such a patriot.”

As an assistant Bronx district attorney, Foglia racked up high-profile wins as a prosecutor with interest in holding the city’s mobsters, high-level drug dealers and corrupt politicians accountable. His near 40-year legal career saw him attain the posts of deputy of the public corruption unit and executive assistant District Attorney for Investigations in Queens County.

He was also cross-designated as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District under former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, assigned to the organized crime and public corruption strike force.

Before his death, Foglia served as top deputy in the state inspector general’s office — with his most infamous bust — a bidding scandal involving the initial franchisees seeking to operate a casino at Aqueduct race track. Foglia was a political hopeful following a move from prosecutor’s office, unsuccessfully running for New York City Council’s open 13th Council District seat in 2005.

For many, Foglia’s legend as an Italian-American icon is largely due to his work fighting for Italian visibility in the city founding the Italian-American Legal Defense and Higher Education Fund.

Phil Foglia Way. Photo Adrian Childress

During the 1990s, Foglia filed a federal lawsuit against City University of New York (CUNY), alleging that the university routinely discriminated against Italian Americans in its hiring practices. A legal settlement was reached between CUNY and Foglia, which led the university to officially recognizing Italian Americans as an underrepresented demographic group in its staff hiring decisions.

Foglia and Palminteri were also key in fights to include Mother Frances Cabrini, the patron saint of immigrants, on the list of famous women to be honored with statues as part of former first lady Chirlane McCray’s “She Built NYC” program.

After City Hall failed to pass the measure honoring Cabrini in 2019, protests led by Foglia from the Italian-American community saw her statue erected in Battery Park in October 2020.

Additionally, Foglia also endeavored in local philanthropic efforts co-founding the Child Reach Foundation with Chazz and Gianna Palminteri, which has given out tens of thousands of dollars to law enforcement families who have children with special needs.

At the time of Foglia’s death, he was survived by his wife of more than 30 years, Jacqueline, and their two sons, Philip, Jr. and Louis.

-with reporting by Jason Cohen

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

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