This past Tuesday, January 15, on day 25 of the government shutdown, longtime Rockaway Beach pizzeria, Elegante Restaurant, didn’t just offer local furloughed federal workers a free slice, but a whole pie to make them smile. In response to the ongoing government shutdown announced on December 22, the popular pizza spot pulled a class act by offering a whole pizza pie pro gratis to federal workers, who aren’t receiving paychecks, due the shutdown. Nearly 50 people from around the peninsula and Broad Channel took Elegante up on the offer on Tuesday and left not only with a pie, but a big smile.
To Elegante’s Amato brothers, Tony and Frank, the people of Rockaway are like family, and when they heard about the government shutdown and how it was affecting local families, they immediately wanted to help.
“The idea first came about when my wife, Jo Ann Shapiro, Second Deputy Clerk at Queens County Court, spoke about several workers she personally knew and/or heard about who were not getting paid since the shutdown. My brother, Frank, and I thought about locals in Rockaway and Broad Channel, suffering with the uncertainty of when they will receive their paycheck. We have been here 37 years and consider not just our regular customers, but the entire community, family. We knew we had to do something to help ease their stress and bring a smile to these families’ faces. From the time we opened almost four decades ago to Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and today, we solidly support the community and the community continues to support us. So for us to do this, it was a no-brainer,” Tony Amato said.
The restaurant posted a message to its Facebook page that on January 15, they would offer free pies to furloughed federal workers with ID and the response was overwhelming.
According to the NYS Department of Labor, there are approximately 114,000 federal employees in the state, most of whom have been without a paycheck since the shutdown began on December 22, now officially recorded as the longest in U.S. history. President Trump and the Democrat-controlled House are at an impasse regarding the President’s demand for $5.7 billion to pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. While both sides haggle, most furloughed federal workers can not report to work, and are not getting paid.
Breezy Point resident, Todd Rosenhaus, said he was really touched when he heard about what Elegante was offering to families such as his. “Some friends called to inform me about it, and I was really excited, knowing that my kids and wife would be so happy. We are a family of five, and with me not receiving a paycheck, it’s been quite challenging to keep things afloat. I have worked for the National Parks Service (NPS) for the last 25 years, and this is the third time I have endured a government shutdown, but this one has been the longest. It’s just a waiting game. Watching the news, and anxiously waiting and praying for that telephone call, letting me know I could finally return to work. I mean as this drags on, besides worrying about incoming bills, I am also worried about our health insurance. I have three boys, and my family can’t afford to lose our health benefits. But anyway, today, I am just grateful for this pizza, knowing that my boys are going to happily devour it,” Rosenhaus said.
Broad Channel resident, Kevin O’Connor, who also has been an employee of NPS for two plus decades, is also feeling the effects of the shutdown. “The bills are coming in, but the paychecks aren’t. I guess everyone is just holding their breath, waiting and hoping for this to be over. I believe the President wants to make a deal, but the other side doesn’t want to budge. What we need in this situation is a good mediator, but that remains to be seen. On a more positive note, I’ve been coming to Elegante for years, and love the food. What they’re doing for us is a tremendously generous gesture, and we are all so grateful. Rockaway and Broad Channel are strong communities and we always stand up to help each other,” O’Connor said.
A Rockaway Park resident who works for the Department of Homeland Security, and preferred to remain unnamed, said he is grateful for the pizza, and though he’s worried, knows that his family is better off than most. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m worried, I have two children, and need my paycheck, but I know of a lot of families who are worse off. I live in a wonderful neighborhood, where a local restaurant is offering a whole free pizza pie to all of us locals affected. It’s a blessing, and again, I am grateful,” he said.
Some furloughed workers, like one Rockaway Beach resident, who works for the Department of Justice and preferred to remain anonymous, is deemed an essential employee and still has to report despite not getting a paycheck. She said, “This really sucks. I still have to report to work without pay, and because of my position in the department, I’m not allowed to even try to make money on the side, while I have two toddlers to provide for. However, when my husband and I heard about what Elegante was offering, we were so happy. We come here all the time. Their kindness really means a lot.”
Frank Amato said that a pizzeria in Ozone Park heard about what they were doing, and reached out to see if they could join in. Also, Mara Valentino of Uncle Louie G donated tubs of ices and ice cream to their mission. “People are really catching on. It’s really a good thing,” Amato said. “We’ve personally been in situations like this, such as with Hurricane Sandy, when you had no idea what was going to happen, and we are so grateful for the help and support we received from our Rockaway community. One hand has to clap the other. It’s all about being good and caring neighbors.”BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS