2015-02-04 / Features

Long Island City Mourns Anthony ‘Tony’ Mazzarella

BY LIZ GOFF


Tony Mazzarella with Congressmember Carolyn Maloney in 2011 in front of the Waterfront Crabhouse. Tony Mazzarella with Congressmember Carolyn Maloney in 2011 in front of the Waterfront Crabhouse. Longtime Long Island City restaurateur Anthony “Tony” Mazzarella, whose background as a boxer and countless charitable efforts made him a standout in the community passed away on January 25 after a long illness.

Mazzarella, 77, opened the iconic Waterfront Crabhouse in 1979 and soon filled the restaurant with sports and historic memorabilia dating back to the early 1900s, most of which bring back memories of some legends of the ring. The Crabhouse was nearly destroyed by fire one year, and then by Superstorm Sandy flooding the other. It came back stronger than ever after surviving both catastrophes.

Family and friends who knew him best saw another side of the toned and tough community leader.

He was never able to say “no” to a friend or a charity that came seeking his fundraising expertise.

Mazzarella organized a Christmas party each year for more than a decade, to help brighten the holiday season for cancer-stricken youngsters. Working with officials at the Queens Division of The American Cancer Society, he closed down a portion of the Crabhouse and filled it with lights, elves and tin soldiers – and, of course, Santa Claus and opened his doors to the young patients. It was through those parties that Mazzarella met a little girl with a huge smile, who led him to establish a fund that gave help and hope to dozens of terminally ill children.

Patricia Manning attended the Crabhouse Christmas parties for several years, winning over Mazzarella and his volunteers with her bubbly laughter and fun-loving personality.

Patricia never made it to the party in December 1987, but her parents were there, reassuring the other children that she was just under the weather.

When the party ended and the last gift was distributed, the parents told Mazzarella Patricia had passed away several weeks earlier. Mazzarella turned his grief over the loss of the little girl into a charity that helped better the lives of dozens of young cancer sufferers.

The Patricia Manning Memorial Fund, later renamed the “Patty Fund,” was established to help youngsters and their families to bear the financial burdens and put a smile on their faces.

“If a child needed a wig, they got a wig and if a family needed assistance, our volunteers are willing and able to help,” Tony said in a 1991 interview.

“Tony was a real-life Wizard of Oz to these kids,” an American Cancer Society spokesperson said. “He never said ‘never’ and he truly believed there was a solution to every problem, if you put your heart to work,” the spokesperson said. “With his insight, the group made a big difference in the quality of life and overall happiness of the children.”

Mazzarella’s list of charitable accomplishments included a series of fundraisers to supply much-needed equipment to local police precincts, his ability to organize bouts between the NYPD Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) Boxing Team and contenders from London and Ireland.

He also packed the stands at the former Elks Lodge on Queens Boulevard in the 1990s, hosting dozens of bouts with the PBA team, along with the Golden Mittens championship.

Mazzarella served on the Board of Directors of the New York State Wine & Grape Foundation and in 1991 was appointed a New York State Boxing Commissioner. He also co-sponsored the massive “Walk On Crack,” held in memory of rookie Police Officer Eddie Byrne, who was executed in his patrol car in February 1988.

Mazzarella’s outreach efforts are far too many to list, but it should be said that this one man left an indelible mark on all those whose lives he touched, and all who were privileged to know him.

Mazzarella is survived by his daughters, Michelle and Kris, son Danny, two grandchildren, and his second wife, Deanne.

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