BY CAV. JOSEPH MATTONE, K.M., K.H.S.
EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS WAS A LETTER MATTONE WROTE TO THE NEW YORK TIMES IN RESPONSE TO AN ARTICLE.
As the president of the Figli di San Gennaro, Inc., the non-profit organization which has operated the annual San Gennaro Feast in Little Italy since 1996, I am disappointed and shocked by the article “Officials Say a Little Italy Tradition is Back: The Mob at San Gennaro” by Alan Feuer, that appeared in the New York section of your April 19, 2012 edition.
The article discussed the Feast of San Gennaro in Manhattan, and a federal indictment in Brooklyn of 11 men who had absolutely no connection to the Feast of San Gennaro.
Your article is baseless, misinforms, mischaracterizes, and most importantly, relies upon, revives and rekindles old derogatory stereotypes.
This article leaves the incorrect impression that the San Gennaro Feast is rife with criminal activity when in fact it is not. The Brooklyn indictment does not name one person associated with the Feast, nor does it even implicate the Feast.
In addition, the “Mob at San Gennaro” article incorrectly implies that the indictment concerns the San Gennaro Feast, when in fact the 18-count indictment has nothing to do with the Feast except to say that there was one unsuccessful attempt four years ago by one of the defendants to extort some participants of the Feast.
Not one aspect of the Feast was implicated or criticized by the indictment or by the authors. As NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said, the Feast was used. In a very real sense, the Feast is a victim.
One fact that your article overlooked is that Italian-Americans are known for their generosity. Since its inception, Figli di San Gennaro has donated approximately $1 million to charity from the proceeds of its annual San Gennaro Feast.
More importantly, and please understand this, all members of Figli di San Gennaro’s board are upstanding members of the Italian-American community. These members include residents of Little Italy, businesspeople, judges and lawyers. As you well know, all aspects of the Feast are overseen and reviewed, which includes all suppliers, each of whom must be approved by the NYC Department of Investigation (DOI).
The DOI in addition monitors and reviews all disbursements made by the Feast.
Further, and without question, all activities overseen by the Feast organizers have improved over the past several years. There have been virtually no complains from residents, while business and community impact and concerns have been addressed.
Most important, however, is the manner in which your article is written. It is laced with innuendo and sarcasm and offensive phrases such as “red sauce joints” and “gangland figure.” Your implication that crime is an Italian-American tradition is, in short, very offensive.
Worse is the statement that it is impossible to know if the Feast is corrupt. Not only is this not factual, it is yet another cleverly-disguised slur, particularly when surrounded by phrases “La Cosa Nostra” and “Mafia.” The New York Times must cease using phrases that link members of the Italian-American community to organized crime.
For The New York Times to allow an article to be published about an act committed in 2008 by an individual who has never been involved with the San Gennaro Feast or its organizers, then to further imply that this singular act is a recurring problem internally within the San Gennaro feast is not just lacking in journalistic integrity, but smacks of discrimination and bigotry against Italian-Americans.
CAV. JOSEPH MATTONE, K.M., K.H.S. is the president of the Figli di San Gennaro, Inc.