Dec. 22, 2023 By Christian Murray and Bill Parry
Tony Bennett, the Astoria native and late singer who gained international fame, will soon have a street co-named after him.
The city council passed a bill Wednesday that will see the intersection of 32nd Street and Ditmars Boulevard co-named Tony Bennett Place, in honor of the singer who died in July at the age of 96.
Bennett, who grew up in an apartment building just off Ditmars at 32nd Street, was raised by an Italian immigrant father, who labored as a grocer, and his mother, who worked as a seamstress. His birth name was Anthony Dominick Benedetto.
The council passed the co-naming along with 116 other honorary names for streets and city locations.
Bennett’s career began in western Queens, where he began to display his musical talents at an early age. At the age of 10, he performed at the opening of the Tri-borough Bridge in 1936.
Soon after his father Giovanni died in 1936, Bennett dropped out of high school to help support his family by singing at Italian restaurants like Riccardo’s by the Bridge, which closed down in 2021.
Bennett was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II and was part of a unit involved in the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp in Kaufering/Landsberg, Germany.
He went on to sell more than 50 million albums worldwide and won 17 Grammy Awards. Bennett was one of the select few artists to have new albums at the top of the charts in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
Bennett’s passing was viewed as a big loss for Astoria, with many elected officials and residents mourning his death at the time.
“The world knew Tony as a brilliant entertainer, but we knew him as a beloved neighbor and friend,” said state Sen. Michael Gianaris, who represents western Queens, at the time. “I was honored to meet him throughout his life and represent the community he so proudly called home and never forgot.”
Meanwhile, Richard Khuzami, the president of the Old Astoria Neighborhood Association, a civic group, also mourned his loss at the time.
“As an Astoria resident and a musician, there is no better representative of both music and the village of Astoria than Tony Bennett and we are very proud of what he accomplished,” Khuzami said.
His legacy will also live on at the Frank Sinatra School for the Arts, located across the street from the Kaufman Astoria Studios, that he founded with his wife Susan in 2001. Bennett named it in honor of his best friend and colleague.