The sad news of the premature death of former Rep. Steve Solarz (1940–2010) stirred up many personal memories I have of the very amiable, soft-spoken legislator, who was also our former state assemblyman and state senator.
Besides his brilliance as an elected official, Solarz and his wife, Nina, were very active in the community. They sponsored public invitations to Kingsborough Community College, the Botanic Garden and even occasional breakfasts at their home.
Solarz arranged a tribute to Brooklyn-born football legend Vince Lombardi — which was one of his many good deeds. It took place one beautiful morning on a bandstand erected on the triangle on Sheepshead Bay Road near E. 17th Street. That ceremony, attended by public officials, football greats and the community, was well-publicized by this newspaper. The party then adjourned to The Barge restaurant (may it, too, rest in peace) on Emmons Avenue. Some of the guests included “The Seven Mules” whom the mighty Lombardi coached to fame after he led Fordham University to the Knute Rockne-Notre Dame system of play at the Polo Ground Stadium against top-ranked rivals. The media at the time kvelled, “Rose Hill to the Rose Bowl!”
At the Barge party, we feasted on a wonderful seafood lunch after a few rounds at the bar toasting the famed Fordham greats. It was there that we set a cool glass of rosé wine atop the broad shoulders of the great Ed Franco. Those shoulders were like boulders — and harder than many rocks.
The city in those days of Mayor Koch never did install the appropriate street sign that had been designed to be mounted on a flagpole at the Sheepshead Bay triangle.
On a recent visit there, I found a memorial plaque to Lombardi buried in the dirt, along with those of other past area leaders.
After last year’s Super Bowl, national television cameras showed the winners — the New Orleans Saints — returning home to a victory celebration at their very own Vince Lombardi Square.
Here, in Brooklyn, Bay Improvement Group Executive Director Steve Barrison still has to wrestle with our city to honor our hometown hero. Go figure.