New York Daily News

August 31, 2010


Community Board 12 chairwoman
Adjoa Gzifa opposes move to rename
street for slain police officer


Koester for News
Adjoa Gzifa, the chairwoman of Community Board 12, vocally opposes naming a street for slain cop John Scarangella.  

A Queens community board that approved the renaming of a street for police shooting victim Sean Bell has outraged the family of a fallen cop by refusing to grant the same honor to the slain officer.

Adding fuel to the controversy, the chairwoman of Community Board 12 suggested this week that risking one's life in the line of duty is part of a cop's job and that an officer's death doesn't necessarily warrant a street renaming.

"For every police officer that puts on a uniform and carries a gun, if they should perish in the line of duty, does that mean we have to rename a street after them?" Adjoa Gzifa told the Daily News when asked about a recently submitted proposal to honor NYPD Officer John Scarangella, killed in the line of duty almost 29 years ago.

Gzifa, 63, has been consistent in opposing street renamings for local notables. She was one of only two Community Board 12 members who voted against renaming part of Liverpool St. in Jamaica for Bell.

    John Scarangella
Police Officer John Scarangella

Renamings have "gotten out of hand," she said. "There are so many other ways to honor someone's name without putting it on a street sign."

Family and fellow NYPD officers first submitted their renaming request for a part of Baisley Blvd. in front of the 113th Precinct in 2006. That proposal was rejected because it did not meet "local criteria," Gzifa said, meaning Scarangella's contribution to the community did not live up to certain standards.

Thomas Scarangella, 36, who was 7 at the time of his father's death in 1981, said his family was "shocked" to see the same community board that refused his family's earlier proposal later accept Bell's.

"It's not really about my father himself, but what he did for his community and what Sean Bell did for his community. It's a big difference," said Scarangella, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority cop.

Scarangella said he was equally shocked by Gzifa's statement.

"When a cop gets shot [multiple] times, it's not something that you should say is a headache to you," said Scarangella, whose dad already has a playground in Gravesend, Brooklyn, named in his memory.

On April 16, 1981, John Scarangella, 42, and partner Richard Rainey, officers in the 113th Precinct, were gunned down near the corner of 202nd St. and 116th Ave. in St. Albans as they approached a van linked to a string of robberies. Scarangella was shot 16 times and died two weeks later.

Fellow NYPD officers were also upset by Gzifa's comments.

"I am deeply angered by the cavalier attitude of the community official who dismisses the risk of death faced by police officers as nothing more than the cost of doing the job," said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

Community Board 12 also rejected a street renaming for slain Officer Eddie Byrne of the 103rd Precinct in 1988, before eventually approving it in 1989, according to the PBA.

John Scarangella's family resubmitted the renaming request after the City Council approved the Bell renaming.

Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), whose district includes Community Board 12, said he met with members of the PBA recently and is "optimistic" the board will change its mind.

Even Bell's fiancée, Nicole Paultre Bell, said Scarangella deserved to have a street named after him.

"Someone losing their life — especially if he served the city — he definitely deserves to have a street named after him," she said. "He deserves the honor, just like Sean deserved the honor."

The proposal is slated to go in front of Community Board 12's transportation committee next month.