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‘Welcome back’ — to Borough Hall • Brooklyn Paper

‘Welcome back’ — to Borough Hall

The iconic “Welcome to Brooklyn” sign from the 1970s has found a new home in Borough Hall.

The sign from the opening montage of “Welcome Back, Kotter” was unveiled by Borough President Markowitz last Thursday in a gala that featured the man who had it made in the first place, then-Beep Sebastian Leone.

Fans of the hit 1970s sitcom about a former troublemaker teaching a new generation of troublemakers will certainly remember the opening shot of a sign that hails Brooklyn as “the fourth largest city in America!”

“I had the original sign made to remind visitors and residents to Brooklyn that our borough would be the fourth largest city in America — in fact, at the time one out of every 80 Americans lived in Brooklyn,” said Leone. “During those difficult times, it was important to have some fun and celebrate all things Brooklyn.”

Markowitz hailed the sign as a piece of Brooklyn nostalgia that remains as true as it was in the 1970s.

“I’m thrilled that we were able to save this small piece of Brooklyn lore, which brings people back to a different time and place in our history,” said Markowitz, who added, “And we’re still the fourth largest city in America!”

Markowitz has followed in Leone’s footsteps by commissioning his own signs at various entrances to the Borough of Kings that bear slogans such as “Leaving Brooklyn — Fuhgeddaboudit!” and “Brooklyn: How sweet it is!” So, it’s no surprise that Markowitz was keen to obtain the original.

After greeting motorists along the Belt Parkway, the iconic sign was hung in Gargiulo’s Restaurant in Coney Island, where it was featured in a party room for many years before being taken down and placed into storage. It remained hidden from the public until Markowitz called in a favor from the owner of the restaurant, Nino Russo, who said he would give the sign to the Beep if he won a third term in 2008 — a political inevitability as certain as the sunrise.

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