Local legends to be memorialized

A legendary Coney Island strongman and a devoted local volunteer are on their way to being remembered on the streets of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.

At the February meeting of Community Board 10, which was held at the Knights of Columbus, 13th Avenue and 86th Street, members voted unanimously to support naming the southwest corner of 13th Avenue and Bay Ridge Parkway in memory of Joe “the Great” Rollino, who lost his life at the intersection earlier this year, at the age of 104, after being struck by a car.

In addition, board members voted unanimously in favor of naming the southeast corner of 74th Street and Shore Road “Auxiliary Captain Linying Gong Way.” Gong, who served as an auxiliary police officer for 37 years, died last year of cancer.

Rollino, noted Doris Cruz, the chairperson of the board’s Traffic & Transportation Committee, was noted for his physical prowess, and also for his strong community spirit.

“In his prime, he was the greatest strongman, pound for pound, one expert said,” Cruz reported, adding, “But not only was he a legend from a former era, he was an example to kids today. He would talk to neighborhood kids about his accomplishments and offer them advice and instruction on fitness.”

Rollino was “Uncle Joe” or “Puggie” to the people that knew him in the neighborhood, recalled Rosa Casella, the executive director of the Neighborhood Improvement Association.

“Kids were mesmerized by the stores he lived, that we could only read about in history books,” Casella told board members. “To the young, he preached being healthy as a way of life. I know our youth will greatly miss his stories and his help. He was a mentor to all of them. NIA honored him as a distinguished Brooklynite. He surely was.”

As for Gong, Cruz said that she was “The first female Asian to be named captain.” While she was assigned to the Brooklyn Central command because she could speak Chinese, “When on patrol, (she) always chose to work in the 68th Precinct.”

After her cancer diagnosis and while receiving chemotherapy, Cruz went on, Gong had continued her service with the auxiliaries, and also “visited the sick and other shut-ins, even when she was ill.” Her last assignment was last year’s New York City Bike Tour, Cruz said, noting, “She was hospitalized shortly after and died within weeks of the event.”

Auxiliary Chief Tony Christo stressed that Gong, “Was very, very special.” She and her husband, Auxiliary Captain Alan Clark, “were known in Bay Ridge for so many years,” Christo added, stressing, “Auxiliary police officers are volunteers. They don’t get paid. They do it for the love of the community. This means a lot to auxiliary police officers, not only in the 68th Precinct but in Brooklyn South.”

With community board approval achieved, the street namings must be voted upon by the City Council, a process that usually takes several months to be completed.