After hearing complaints in person, via phone calls, and in print, elected officials have resolved to appease Van Nesters in a way that was previously never mentioned: they will seek to name Van Nest Park after Chief James A. Romito.
Romito, who worked for the Port Authority and passed away on 9/11 attempting to rescue people from the WTC, became the hero-of-the-moment for Van Nest residents that disputed the naming of a new school in the neighborhood that will open its doors in September.
“It’s just common sense that when you open a school in Van Nest and decide to name it after someone, you name it after someone from Van Nest,” Joe Bombace, a member of Community Board 11, still insists. However, he has heard of the idea to name the park after Romito instead, and approves of it.
“Hey, it’s a nice thing,” he acknowledged. “We’re disappointed about the school, but what can you do. All three of those men were heroes that died in the line of duty, serving the borough, so these are meaningful gestures all around.”
Bombace said that most of those from his group, which protested the school renaming, are comfortable with the compromise.
The three men he refers to are Romito and two FDNY firefighters: lieutenant Curtis Meyran and firefighter John Bellow, who died in a fire on East 178th Street in January, 2005. A dispute began a few weeks back when CB 11 and the NYC Department of Education ruled to name the new school building after the firefighter heroes, who were Bronx locals, but did not have roots in Van Nest. Bombace, along with Pirtam Shradhanand and Bernadette Ferrara of the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance, and numerous others that signed a petition, led the charge in motionining to name the school after Romito, who went to St. Dominic as a kid and grew up in Van Nest. In the end, it proved to be too late. The plan to name the school after Meyran and Bellow was well under way, and their delighted families had been notified.
“This is a good resolution for everyone,” said Councilman Jimmy Vacca. “I’m going to suggest that we name Van Nest Park after Mr. Romito. John Fratta [of CB 11] and I are going to work on this together, and Bob Nolan, former borough deputy president, is on board as well. It shouldn’t be a problem.”
Vacca pointed out that, after all, the main park in Van Nest does not have an official name. It was ripe for naming, and this way, those who were so unhappy with the school renaming can at least feel that their local hero is being honored appropriately.
The park is a triangle located between Van Nest Avenue, Unionport Road, and White Plains Avenue. It will be some time before it bears a plaque or sign, however, since Vacca and his constituents have yet to make the naming official. The process will begin imminently.