What do you think of our postal service? For most, the response would be pretty negative and include some choice words that can’t be printed here. However, in a cynical attempt to pander to the Italian-American community and Catholics in his district, Congressman Max Rose has proposed renaming the Dyker Heights Post Office after Mother Cabrini.
A saint should be revered and not relegated to having their name slapped on an aging and architecturally bland federal building. To add insult to injury, this proposal seems to have been made for purely political purposes.
For background, this all began when the She Built NYC Initiative was created in 2018 to erect public monuments or statues to honor women’s history. There was an open call for nominations and Mother Cabrini soared to the top, as Catholics pooled their votes to promote their beatific icon. However, New York’s First Lady Chirlane McCray, who led the effort, rejected the saint for some unknown reason. This spurred a firestorm with Italian-Americans and Catholics.
Mother Cabrini, a Roman Catholic nun, became the first naturalized citizen of the United States to be canonized by the Church in 1946 by Pope Pius XII. She founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and became the patron saint of immigrants.
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917) arrived in New York City in 1889 and against all odds established schools, orphanages, hospitals and churches for newly arrived Italian immigrants, including in Brooklyn.
It was obvious to many that Mother Cabrini should have been included on this list of women to be honored. Indeed, a bi-partisan group of elected officials in Brooklyn let the Mayor know that they objected to her exclusion and pushed for a statue at a fitting location.
Never missing an attempt to throw salt on the wounds of our Mayor, on Columbus Day, Governor Cuomo committed the funding for a statue of Mother Cabrini and created a commission with the sole purpose of doing so. Certainly building one near an institution she established in Kings County would make lots of sense.
Enter Max Rose. Instead of fully focusing his effort on this worthwhile endeavor, he introduced his pandering post office idea. What makes this act so cynical is the fact that his congressional district, which takes in all of Staten Island and portion of southwest Brooklyn, has one of the highest concentrations of Italian-Americans in the country and, sadly, the naming of the post office is simply an ill-conceived and not very subtle attempt to win their vote.
What makes this situation all the more troubling is the negative reputation that post offices have and their general state of disrepair. Think about it; when was the last time you strolled into a Post Office and exclaimed “My, what a beautiful, clean and well run facility.” In fact, just this past June Congressman Rose complained about the Dyker Heights Post Office specifically and their truck fleet parking on residential streets in a letter to the NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner.
Perhaps Max Rose’s actions are an attempt to make up for an unflattering and culturally insensitive portrayal he and an aide gave after attending a Federation of Italian-Americans organization event in Dyker Heights recently. As reported in New York Magazine last month, after leaving the event he asked “Have you ever seen so many men kissing other men before?” When his aide made an off-color joke, Rose told him “Listen f–knuts, you have to say off the record first, do you know that?” Obviously, the New York Magazine reporter was in on the joke.
As a Catholic, proud Italian-American, and someone who has represented elected officials of both political parties in the neighborhoods of Brooklyn let me offer some free advice to Congressman Rose; New Yorkers are smart, so don’t attempt to pander to them and if you do, follow the lead of Governor Cuomo and support a fitting memorial to Mother Cabrini.
Bob Capano has been an adjunct professor of political science for over 15 years, and has worked for Brooklyn Republican & Democratic officials. Follow him on twitter @bobcapano