College Point family mourns after mother’s West Nile death

Francis Coppola Sr. (r.) begins to tear up as he looks at a picture of his deceased wife Maria while sitting with his son Francis Jr. Photo by Christina Santucci
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A College Point family lost their mother to complications stemming from West Nile virus, and they point to standing pools of water and unkempt foliage across the street as the culprit.

Francis Coppola said his mother Maria died March 31 after suffering from an illness related to the West Nile virus for nearly seven months.

“We had such high hopes she was recovering,” Coppola said of his mother, who was 70 years old. “She was like the backbone of our family.”

His mother contracted the virus in September, according to Coppola, and was shuffled around to four different hospitals in the area before she died at New York Hospital Queens.

His mother grew up in Naples, Italy, and came to America after she married Coppola’s father, also named Francis. She came to New York and settled in College Point, working at a clothing factory in Manhattan before running the family restaurant, Coppola’s Pizza, near the corner of 14th Avenue and 132nd Street in College Point.

The city Department of Health confirmed her death and said it is looking into the causes.

“The Health Department is investigating reports of a Queens woman who died from complications of West Nile Virus,” a spokeswoman said. “The department treated all catch basins in College Point three times last year. Aerial larviciding was also conducted three times last season.”

West Nile can take two forms, the first being a typically nonfatal fever, but the virus can also cause fatal complications, including encephalitis and meningitis, which are referred to as neuro-invasive forms of the virus.

The Coppolas said they have complained about standing pools of water across from their mother’s home and unkempt weeds on the property of nearby businesses. They are planning legal action against the businesses there and the city for not responding to their complaints.

College Point is a known haven for mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus, which is disproportionately fatal to the young and old. In 1999, it was the site of the first known case of the disease in the United States.

Last year, the department reported College Point as just one of two areas where the virus was detected in its last survey covering Aug. 28 to Sept. 16, according to department statistics.

In Queens last year, there were five confirmed cases of West Nile Virus, although a report issued by the Health Department said legions of cases go unreported.

In November, another Queens resident in Whitestone died from complications related to West Nile Virus, according to Coppola, who is organizing a group to bring awareness to the disease and is planning to speak at an upcoming Community Board 7 meeting.

The department outlined a plan to monitor and control the promulgation of mosquitoes infected with West Nile, emphasizing the importance of prevention by eliminating standing water and killing unhatched larvae with pesticide sprays.

But according to a lawmaker who toured the site across from Maria Coppola’s home and another down the street, the city is not taking standing water complaints seriously enough.

“The city has to take a more aggressive approach to West Nile,” said state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who said complaints by neighbors often never get past the initial stage of issuing a warning letter to the offending property owner.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Posted 12:00 am, May 10, 2012
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Reader feedback

Ciro Di Donna from Whitestone says:
I can't understand why in the age of the Internet that the New York City Health Department does not set-up a West Nile Mosquito Complaint Site where a photo of standing pools of water and unkempt weeds on the property of a nearby home or businesses could be uploaded along with any other pertinent information such as an address etc., instead of issuing a warning letter to the offending property owner that in most cases they don't even bother reading, ignored or simply tossed out with the rest of the trash. This will not only put the Department of Health of NYC on notice by a return Department of Health Auto Acknowledgment Correspondence including a future follow-up reference request number for anyone to check on it's status) etc., but also the offending property owner who could be held legally liable for ignoring a serious public health violation and prevent the grief that the Coppola family is now going through and I pray to God that He grants them the strength to pull them through during this moment of tribulation in their live's.
May 10, 2012, 6:46 pm
Francis Coppola from college point says:
The elected officails aren't doing crap about the sewrs or moving fast enough summer hot days are here and sewer pools across the street are still there Sen on Pix11 said he wanted a total invetigation and see no inprovement. Something to grasp at that we entrust our elected officials for serving our communities when we need haste to our aid they have deaf ears and turn the other way. There's all smoke and nothing roasting. But the the big BBQ election day they promise you the world . That don't fit well in my book. I'm thinking twice about election daythis up coming year.
June 1, 2012, 6:18 am
Francis Coppola from college Point says:
Senantor Avella and assemblyman Mike Simanowitz turned there face on the Coppola Family and many other's who died from the west Nile VIRUS in Queens they both stink as far Im concerned. They'll never get any votes from QUEENS FROM Asians, GLBT groups and many other tax Civic's
July 1, 2012, 11:59 pm
Pasquale autiero from New city ny says:
The health department should have taken care of this situation because there was a pool across the street that they should have known could potentially have mosquitoes that were carrying the west nile virus. With all of the technoglogy we have today, someone should have stepped in and protected agains this deadly disease. Iremember her qualities of kindenes of sacrifice and love for her family friends Ipray to God for her. Signora Maria portavi gioia verita speranza amore fede Dando si riceve tu hai dato Ora sei in pace Giulietta tua madre morendo ha resushitata
Dec. 12, 2012, 8:55 am
J.A. from Former College Point Resident says:
My wife and I have eaten at that pizzeria a few times--our sincere condolences for your loss. We left CP to move out of state about a week ago. I noticed the mosquitos were becoming rampant these past few months. Last month, in our former home (Soundview Point) , I killed about 15 in one week using an electric racket--every night, they would buzz by my ears. I didn't realize they were carrying West Nile. It's getting bad there--I don't recall it being like that the years prior.
July 31, 2014, 9:48 pm

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