When the new elementary school in Van Nest opens in the fall, it will bear late Councilwoman Madeline Provenzano’s name.
Community Education Council 11 voted unanimously on March 10 to name P.S. 481, located in the old St. Dominic building on White Plains Road, after Provenzano.
Provenzano represented the community of Morris Park and Van Nest, as well as Throggs Neck and Zerega from 1997 until 2005, when she was term-limited. She served as chief-of-staff to her predecessor Councilman Michael DeMarco for 19 years.
Provenzano had a strong record of serving the community, said her successor Councilman James Vacca, who advocated for the naming.
“She was vigilant, and she worked hard for her district and the city,” said Vacca, “It’s something you want young people to know about and want our neighbors to always be mindful of.”
Shortly after Provenzano died from breast cancer in December, Vacca sent a letter to the CEC proposing that the school be named after her.
“I wanted something in the community to memorialize her work for perpetuity,” said Vacca.
In response to his proposal, the councilman was copied on a letter from the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance to CB 11’s chairman.
The letter said that the group had already voted in November to propose naming the school after late Van Nest resident Judge Benjamin Nolan, who died in 1996, and alleged that the councilwoman had neglected the neighborhood during her tenure.
But Nolan’s son, Robert, said at the time that the inflammatory letter did not represent his feelings nor that of the neighborhood alliance’s, and in the wake of Provenzano’s death he supported Vacca’s pitch to name the school after her.
Provenzano’s name also had the support of Community Board 11, who showed up at the CEC meeting alongside Vacca to make the case for the late councilwoman.
“There was overwhelming support for her, and it was a great fit,” said CEC 11 president Pamela Johnson.
The community board had also suggested the school gym be named after Nolan, but the CEC declined to assign a name to the gym, said Johnson, feeling it should be the prerogative of the school’s principal and parents.
At the recent meeting, the CEC also voted to name P.S. 483 in Wakefield after the late Robert Oswain, a former school safety officer and police officer from the 47th Precinct who was well known in the neighborhood.
There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony at both locations in the fall.
“We hope the community comes out and supports the schools,” said Johnson.