By Bill Parry
Tony Mazzarella, the owner of the Waterfront Crab House in Long Island City for nearly 40 years, died Saturday from a long battle with leukemia. He was one week shy of his 79th birthday.
Mazzarella spent nearly $500,000 of his personal wealth to rebuild his restaurant after a six-foot flood surge from Hurricane Sandy nearly destroyed the dining room and kitchen. The famed restaurant at 2-03 Borden Ave. did not have any flood insurance. Mazzarella “rebuilt it from the floorboards” and reopened 107 days after the storm, saying, “You tell them all: The Waterfront Crab House got wet, but we didn’t drown.”
Mazzarella was much more than a restaurateur, explained his longtime friend Joe Conley, who recently stepped down as chairman of Community Board 2 after 23 years.
“Tony did some amazing things — he was always looking to do things to make the community better,” Conley said. “He fought especially hard for children with cancer.”
Mazzarella was the co-founder of the Patty Fund, which raised tens of thousands of dollars for children with cancer. He served as a member on the board of the American Cancer Society, Queens Division, and he was honored with the St. George Medal, the highest and most prestigious award for outstanding service and leadership in the fight against cancer.
“He was a member of Community Board 2 for 17 years — that’s why he was so close with Joe Conley,” Mazzarella’s brother-in-law Bobby Haubert said. “And then there was his love of boxing and the fighters.”
Mazzarella was the founder of the New York Boxing Hall of Fame headquartered on the second floor of the Waterfront Crab House. It was also the monthly meeting place for Ring 8, a fraternity of retired boxers who help pay medical and housing bills for old or destitute fighters.
“If he didn’t let us use the Crab House, and we’ve been meeting there for decades, I don’t think there would even be a Ring 8 if not for Tony’s generosity and perseverance,” President Bob Duffy said.
Mazzarella was also a former inspector and deputy commissioner for the New York State Athletic Commission and he under served former Gov. Mario Cuomo on the state Economic Development Corporation.
“He helped out with all of the wineries in the state,” Haubert said adding, “The Waterfront Crab House will continue to operate. His children Kris, Michelle and Daniel will make sure of that.”