Joe Oppedisano, the owner of Il Bacco Ristorante restaurant in Little Neck, made sure he left the hospital where he was being treated for injuries he sustained in a tragic plane crash in order to cast his vote in person on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
“I’m very patriotic, very American,” said Oppedisano, who immigrated to the U.S. from Calabria, Italy, when he was 13 years old. “I told the doctors to please get me out in time to vote. I believe in the American dream. And I made it.”
The 61-year-old was the pilot on the seaplane that crashed on Flushing Bay on Oct. 4, killing one “dear friend” and injuring himself as well as two other friends.
“While I was landing, a boat came right in front of me, and I tried to land … I landed there about 3,000 times and that was the first time that happened,” said Oppedisano, who flies his plane as a hobby and passion.
For the past month, Oppedisano underwent 10 surgeries.
“I’m making the best of it. It could have been worse,” he said. “But I made it. God didn’t want me yet.”
Oppedisano and his family cast their votes at P.S. 193 in Whitestone. They said there was no line at their polling location, and voting only took a few minutes.
Oppedisano’s daughter, Tina, sees her father as the “epitome of the American dream.”
“He came to this country not knowing English or a person and worked to create this foundation and our family. I mean, he even changed his name from Giuseppe to Joseph,” said Tina. “We almost lost him, and that was very scary and traumatic. But he left the hospital and said, ‘Where are my pants? Let’s go.’ I’m happy to have him home and happy he voted.”
Tina and her father sued Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the attorney general over the state’s refusal to allow indoor dining to restart back in September. Shortly after their $2 billion lawsuit made headlines, Cuomo released guidelines for indoor dining to resume with 25 percent capacity.
However, as the weather gets colder and there are no signs of the administration increasing capacity limits for indoor dining, Tina said they still have a ways to go as a family-owned small business.
“Everything got kind of held up. Cuomo said he’d touch base on the capacity on Nov. 1, but that hasn’t happened. No word on opening or increasing capacity,” said Tina. “I don’t understand what’s going on.”
Tina said they’re in a particular disadvantage, as they’re right on the board of Long Island, where restaurants were allowed to have indoor dining at 50 percent capacity since June.
“We’re looking at about four months and a week that we’re behind,” she said. “It’s only getting colder.”
Tina said they’re pushing for an increase in indoor dining capacity. But, she fears damage has already been done for restaurants.
“So much time has passed, and I said it from beginning — we’re creatures of adaptation. If you require us to do something long enough, we’re going to adapt to it. Telling us to wear masks and families not to gather for Thanksgiving. You’re taking the morals off of human beings. I understand safety precautions, but psychologically this is causing a bigger strain.”