Petrosino Square

The Daily Plant : Monday, October 19, 2009

Newly Renovated Park In Soho Recognizes Italian-American Police Hero

Photo by Malcolm Pinckney

On Tuesday, October 13, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe joined City Council Member Alan Gerson, Italian Consulate General Francesco Maria Talo, NYPD Organized Crime Control Bureau Chief Anthony Izzo, relatives of Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino, representatives of Community Board 2, and the Friends of Petrosino Square to open a newly renovated park in SoHo, named for the only New York City police officer to die while on duty outside the United States.

“In the spirit of Columbus Day, we honor Joseph Petrosino, an Italian-American police officer killed in the line of duty overseas, and the hero for whom Petrosino Park is named,” said Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “The reconstructed Petrosino Park has doubled in size, and features new benches, plantings, pavements, and fencing. Thanks to City Council Member Alan Gerson’s generous funding allocation, this newly renovated park is an expanded oasis of green in the midst of the bustling neighborhood of SoHo.”

A popular community destination, Petrosino Park is located at the crossroads of Little Italy, Chinatown, and the Bowery. The park features new pavements and curbs, fencing, plantings, benches and a drinking fountain. The park is also double its former size, after being expanded onto Lafayette and Spring Streets. Its $2 million reconstruction was funded entirely by Council Member Gerson.

Also in attendance at the event were Nino Milito, Lt. Petrosino’s grandnephew and the director of the Petrosino Museum in Padula, Italy; Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn and another grandnephew of Petrosino’s, Joseph A. Petrosino; and his son, Joseph M. Petrosino, who is continuing his family’s tradition by serving as a New York City police officer.

Petrosino was born in Salerno, Italy in 1860 and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1873. At age 18 he began his career in public service with Sanitation, then under the jurisdiction of the Police Department. He aided the police by working undercover as an informer in Little Italy before joining the Police Department in 1883. He was the shortest officer at 5’3” tall.

In 1895 Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt personally promoted Petrosino to Sergeant of Detectives. While investigating anarchists in the United States, he warned President McKinley of the threats plotted against his life. (McKinley was assassinated in 1901.) Petrosino later became a lieutenant and was given command of the new Italian Squad to combat the crime organization known as the Black Hand.

Under his leadership many people were arrested and convicted, reducing the crime rate against Italian-Americans by 50 percent. Petrosino was assassinated in Palermo, Italy in 1909 while on assignment investigating criminal records of organized crime leaders for their deportation. The park, formerly known as Kenmare Square, was renamed in memory of Police Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino by a local law, introduced by Council Member Miriam Friedlander, passed by the City Council, and signed by Mayor Edward I. Koch in 1987.


“The time is always right to do what is right.”

Martin Luther King Jr.
(1929 - 1968)

Directions to Petrosino Square


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