Although Joe Ardizzone, the last man to live in Willets Point, died in July, his legacy lives on in the lives of the people he touched.
“He was a well meaning guy, he loved the area, he felt he was taken advantage of, which I think he was,” Flushing resident Benjamin Haber told the Chronicle. “He was willing to fight for his rights. He will be missed.”
Ardizzone, who lived in Willets Point since he was born in 1932, was cremated after he passed on July 29 at 84 years old.
“I’m shocked to hear this,” state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said. “He was such an advocate for property rights and was almost like the last man standing in Willets Point, standing up to the bureaucracy for defense of his home.”
Ardizzone is survived by his sister and two nieces, neither of whom could be reached for comment.
He was recognized for his efforts to fight the Willets Point redevelopment project by the Property Rights Foundation of America when the group’s president, Carol LaGrasse, spoke about his legacy at its conference last month.
Ardizzone, who never married and had no children, often wore a revolutionary war uniform when attending events fighting the city’s redevelopment plan.
“It was quite clear that he understood the meaning of freedom and didn’t think that eminent domain should be used by a private entity in Willets Point,” LaGrasse said.
He worked as a security guard near the end of his life after being a businessman. He had a restaurant called Joseph’s for 30 years and also ran other enterprises throughout his career.
The late Willets Point resident is also remembered as a great friend by independent media producer Bob Loscalzo, who has followed Willets Point for years. They used to meet at least once a week at Tony’s Pizzeria in Corona.
“He would walk in and he’d be greeted by four or five people from the old days,” Loscalzo said. “His personality could light up a room ... there was no question that he had arrived whether it was at a restaurant or a meeting at Willets Point.”
Tony Simone, a close friend of Ardizzone’s who entered the U.S. Navy with him, was deeply saddened by his loss.
“He was a very generous guy, he always helped people out,” he said. “He was a tough, tough, tough, tough, tough cookie.”