By Christina Santucci
A Maspeth street will be co-named Saturday for George Gibbons Jr., who was killed in a hit-and-run crash on the Long Island Expressway, but his family would like the popular bar owner’s legacy to also leave its mark on state legislation.
Gibbons’ family has been pushing for New York to strengthen penalties for drivers convicted in hit-and-run crashes after the driver who pleaded guilty to leaving the scene after hitting the bar owner’s livery cab was sentenced to 3 1/2 to seven years in prison.
Earlier this year, state legislators introduced a bill to change a fatal hit-and-run from a Class D felony to a Class C and increase prison time to a maximum of 15 years in state prison.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), who proposed the street co-naming for the proprietor of Gibbons’ Home bar in the City Council, has been supportive of the family’s efforts.
“If everyone sees this sign, they can remember the good life that George led, the tragic end at such a young age and how important it is to get involved,” she said.
Gibbons, 37, had been riding in a livery cab on a Long Island Expressway service road in October 2011 when the taxi was hit by a vehicle traveling the wrong way, according to the NYPD. The driver of the car that smashed into the livery cab fled the scene, and police initially were unable to locate him. But a month later Brooklyn resident Peter Rodriguez was picked up in Connecticut and charged with manslaughter, assault, criminally negligent homicide and leaving the scene without reporting, according to the Queens DA. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 3 1/2 to seven years in prison in May 2012, the district attorney said.
Crowley credited the Gibbons family with helping to locate Rodriguez.
“I’ve been in the Council for about five years and in all of the years I’ve been in office, I’ve never seen the community come together in the way they did to find the person that was the hit and run driver,” she said.
“We were all born and raised in Maspeth. It’s amazing how a small community can come together and assist its fellow residents in a time of need,” said Gibbons’ brother, Brendan.
Another of Gibbons’ siblings — Eamon — has taken over his late brother’s bar, which reopened several months ago, and several other family are pitching in at the establishment at 54-12 69th Street.
The co-naming ceremony is scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m. at the corner of 60th Drive at Mt. Olivet Crescent.
“It means an awful lot, seeing that it is the street we all grew up on and some on my family still live on,” Brendan Gibbons said.
Reach Managing Editor Christina Santucci by phone at 718-260-4589 or by email at [email protected].