Florists outdo themselves with Gotti arrangements

Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like TimesLedger on Facebook.

Using orchids and carnations to represent the life of a man who was larger than life, borough florists scurried to prepare for a flood of orders following mob boss John Gotti’s death from throat cancer June 10.

Dennis Rigas, owner of Dennis Rigas Floral Creations in Richmond Hill, closed his shop to other business, ordering his staff to create the sprays and arrangements necessary for Gotti.

“He was a very important man,” Rigas said. “The size and quality of the flowers show respect.”

Rigas estimated that each order he received was between $300 and $500, but said the pricey arrangements were appropriate.

“No price, there was no price for the man,” he said.

Calls to florists across the borough and city revealed that the intricate arrangements that included an eight-foot-long race horse, a giant Cuban cigar, assortments of broken hearts, a Yankees’ logo and a set of boxing gloves started at about $300.

Twenty flower cars transported the arrangements in a solemn procession from the funeral home in Maspeth that ended in the cemetery in Middle Village.

But the financial gain for area florists was not unprecedented. Gus Mastroianni, owner of Roslyn Florists, said he saw a bigger windfall a few years ago when a cousin of the Prince of Kuwait, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, died.

“It’s not as much as everyone thinks,” he said, referring to profits stemming from the Gotti funeral. “It’s like a few thousand dollars.”

The boxing gloves were the handiwork of Brian Stevens, manager of Glendale Florist. He said he had completed 13 to 15 floral pieces for the Gotti wake, including several large crosses. When asked about his customers, Stevens said he knew that Gotti’s immediate family had not ordered flowers, but he was not sure whether the requests were from friends or associates of the family.

Mastroianni said he had previous business transactions with the Gottis and received orders from them for the wake. “I happen to be close with the family and they know me,” he said. “The daughter lives locally, so they know me. They like the work I do.”

Jimmy Zelis, president of June Florist in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, created more than 35 pieces for the Gotti wake, including the Yankee arrangement, which cost $600, and a map of Missouri, the state where Gotti died in federal prison hospital at the age of 61.

When questioned as to how he felt about designing arrangements for a convicted criminal, Zelis simply said, “I don’t judge my people’s past.”

Curious onlookers who crowded the streets outside the Papavero Funeral Home in Maspeth last week gawked at the intricate arrangements, but some felt they were too much.

“They should send the money to cancer research,” said Anne Mooney, of Maspeth, as she watched men load the flowers onto 19 black flower cars. “He even died of it.”

Bruce Cutler, Gotti’s friend and attorney for more than 15 years, said the Gotti family planned to donate the flowers to a festival for autistic children following his burial.

Reach reporter Jennifer Smith by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like TimesLedger on Facebook.

Reader Feedback

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

CNG: Community Newspaper Group