By Phil Corso
It has been almost five months since former Gibbons’ Home bar owner George Gibbons Jr. died in a wrong-way car crash, and even though the bar has since reopened under new family management, there are still reminders throughout the spot of the man who created it.
“The entire place is a reminder of George’s personality and his zest for life,” said Bernadette Gibbons, his sister. “Through the signs and atmosphere provided in the Gibbons’ Home, George’s memory, heart and life will never be far from our minds and the minds of everyone who enters through the front door.”
Gibbons was killed Oct. 15 in an alleged hit-and-run accident involving 36-year-old Peter Rodriguez, who is facing several felony charges and was due back in court March 23.
Rodriguez was allegedly driving the wrong way on the Long Island Expressway near 58th Road shortly after Gibbons had closed his bar for the night before he hit the Lincoln livery cab in which Gibbons was riding, police said. Gibbons was taken to Elmhurst Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. He was 37.
Police said that Rodriguez fled the scene after the crash, leaving behind his unconscious passenger, possibly to escape field sobriety tests. He was arrested after going into hiding for a month on Nov. 15 with help from an NYPD Crimestoppers hotline tip, police said. The tip, the Gibbons family said, probably came from a communitywide effort of theirs to find Rodriguez, which included a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the Brooklyn man.
The Maspeth bar closed its doors after Gibbons’ funeral and has reopened under the management of brother Eamon Gibbons. Bernadette Gibbons said the bar’s official reopening on the weekend of Feb. 24 was as successful as it could have been.
“We are very lucky to have some of the best and most loyal patrons,” she said. “Everyone came back with a smile on their face and they all were so happy to return ‘home.’”
Bernadette Gibbons said business has been nothing but good news since Eamon took over the bar with some help from her. She and Eamon Gibbons are two of five siblings and work many of the shifts in the bar.
Rodriguez was originally scheduled to appear in court Feb. 24, but had his case postponed upon his lawyer’s request. He was arraigned Nov. 16 before Queens Criminal Court Judge Gene Lopez on charges of manslaughter, assault, criminally negligent homicide and leaving the scene without reporting.
City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) was at the courthouse with the Gibbons family to show her support and urge the judge to impost the maximum sentence if he was found guilty.
Eric Yun, Crowley’s spokesman, said Rodriguez should not get off easy.
“The thought of him getting another deal isn’t that great for the community,” Yun said.
Bernadette Gibbons said the entire family was keeping a close eye on the Rodriguez case, and they have the support of the community behind them.
“We hope that Peter will be charged with a fair sentence, as he is a threat to any community and has robbed us of our dear brother,” she said. “There is no sentence that will be severe enough because nothing will ever bring him back or undo what has already been done.”
She added that anyone joining the family on the March 23 court date was invited to wear the color green to show solidarity in support of George Gibbons.
Crowley issued a citation to the Gibbons’ Home bar when it reopened and Yun said the councilwoman was hopeful about its future. Bernadette Gibbons said the bar stands for much more now that her brother George is no longer there.
“We are very lucky to have The Gibbons’ Home and to be able to keep George’s memory alive as well as make new memories with those in the community,” she said.
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.