Street renamed for activist

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Parsons Boulevard by 24th Avenue was renamed Sunday after a Flushing attorney and civic leader who was active with the Garden Jewish Center and offered the synagogue’s space to members of a Korean church after their place of worship was destroyed in a fire.

Bernie Shapiro, a native of Ellenville, N.Y., who moved to Flushing in 1960 and died last year at age 76, was remembered as a man who helped the community but did not need the recognition that came with it.

“My father was a very devoted man to his family, his friends, his colleagues,” said his daughter, Randi Chase. “My father believed in the motto ‘You do the right thing.’ That’s how my father lived his life — doing the right thing.”

The unveiling of “Bernard L. Shapiro Boulevard” hit a slight snag when the pulling of a string to unfurl the sign only tore off half the paper hiding the sign.

About five minutes passed before Flushing civic leader Isaac Sasson got on a ladder and tore the rest of the paper so the whole sign could be unveiled.

As an attorney, Shapiro represented 213 co-ops throughout the city. He also established a community youth program at the Garden Jewish Center at 24-20 Parsons Blvd., which named its sanctuary after Shapiro six months after his death.

City Comptroller John Liu, who used to represent Flushing on the City Council, said Shapiro was “someone who gave so much of himself to our community and our city.”

“It’s only fitting that one New York City street be renamed in his honor,” Liu said. “It’s important for everyone to remember Bernie Shapiro. Bernie Shapiro was an extraordinary New Yorker.”

State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) said Shapiro “lived a life that reflected the Torah” and was the kind of person who did not tout his accomplishments.

“He was a friend and counsel to anyone and everyone who sought his guidance,” Padavan said.

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing) also attended the ceremony.

Gene Taper, Shapiro’s brother-in-law, joked that when the idea for the street renaming first came up, he thought the sign should be placed on Park Avenue or Broadway.

But he said the idea to have the sign on Parsons Boulevard by 24th Avenue, in front of the Garden Jewish Center, was “spot on.”

“This is perfect because this shul was very close to Bernie’s heart,” Taper said. “He loved this place, he loved it second only to his children, and some days his children came in second,” he quipped.

Community Board 7 District Manager Marilyn Bitterman, who got the ball rolling on the street renaming and knew Shapiro as a member of the Garden Jewish Center, said the renaming was “a true and fitting memorial for a great guy.”

“Bernie had an impact on everyone,” she said. “He passed through each one of our lives and left a little bit of Bernie.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 5:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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