Anthony Carrino, a former Newark councilman who served during a turbulent period in the city's history, died Sunday. He was 79.
Carrino began his career in public service as a teacher at Barringer High School and as a Newark police officer.
In 1974, he requested a leave of absence from the police force in order to run for City Council and was elected that year to represent his native North Ward.
He held the seat for 28 years. His council run came to an end in 2002, when he was defeated by Hector Corchado.
"In politics, the two most important things are the friends you make and your word. Tony had both. He was mi amigo, mio amico, and my friend. I'll never forget him," said Councilman-at-Large Luis Quintana, who served with him ont he council. "I was in tears this morning. We were not just colleagues. He was my teacher and my mentor."
Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo said Carrino was a "great man" and an outstanding elected official.
"Being a local politician isn't always easy. You see people who voted for you every day. But Tony did what he had to do. He put the North Ward first," DiVincenzo said.
Carrino's time on the council was concurrent with serious socioeconomic and demographic changes in Newark. He was elected only seven years after the 1967 riot that left 26 people dead and millions of dollars in property damage.
A key part of his campaign platform was opposition to the proposed Kawaida Towers housing project to be built in the North Ward. The project was backed by Amiri Baraka, the late, well-known African-American poet, activist, and father of Mayor Ras Baraka. After encountering fierce opposition from both Carrino and his constituents in the predominantly white North Ward, the project was ultimately scrapped.
Carrino also tangled with Mayor Ken Gibson, who died in March. Carrino led a group of some 50 residents angry over the appointment of an out-of-towner to serve as North Ward precinct commander to Gibson's office and proceeded to break his door down, according to a New York Times report of the incident. The charges were presented to an Essex County grand jury, which declined to indict him. He was later fined $850 and given a suspended sentence and placed on six-months probation, according to the New York Times.
"In the beginning with Ken Gibson, there was a lot of tough times and tough negotiations. But in the end, they were friends. Being in office for 28 years, you know he did something right," DiVincenzo said.
"White flight" accelerated from Newark in the wake of the riot. But in the North Ward, change came at a slower place. Italian-American residents were hesitant to leave streets tinged with ethnic pride and deep ties based on church, food, and family.
"When Tony first got into office, people were running out of the city. But people like Tony and Steve Adubato, they didn't do that. They stood."
Steve Adubato, who backed Gibson in the 1970 mayoral race and would play a pivotal role in North Ward politics for the next 45 years, looked to take out Carrino in the 1986 race. The race between Carrino and Fran Adubato, Steve's wife, was among the toughest political campaings in Newark, DiVincenzo recalled.
"It was as ugly as it could be," DiVincenzo said. "But when it was over, it was over. Tony and Steve got together, because they knew they had to do it for the community."
By the 1990s, the ethnic balance in the neighborhood had tilted toward the growing Puerto Rican population, making Carrino's election defeat to Corchado almost inevitable. Carrino is the last Italian-American councilman to serve on the Newark City Council to date.
"He was very inclusive, and that's why he lasted as long as he did," DiVincenzo said. "Italian, Hispanic, black, it didn't matter, Tony reached out."
Carrino's legacy was publicly noted last year at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new mixed-use development that will bear his name. The Carrino Plaza Apartments, which will include affordable housing units, will be built on Broadway. The building is slated to open in two weeks.
Carrino was remembered just as much for the private relationships that he built and maintained.
"He was an independent voice on the council," said North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos, who defeated Corchado in 2006 to take Carrino's former seat. "He always looked out for the interests of the North Ward."
Carrino, who lived in Bonita Springs, FL, is survived by his wife, Ann Marie (Poeta) Carrino, and his children, Lynn Carrino, Maria Carrino, Joseph Carrino and his wife Dawn, Toni Ann Carrino-Casale. His son, Anthony Carrino, predeceased him. He is also survived by five siblings Joseph “Duke” Carrino, Maria Desimone, Dennis Carrino, Rosalind Cocuzza and Thomas Carrino and numerous grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins.
A wake will be held at the Leonardis Memorial Home 210 Ridgedale Ave. in Florham Park on Thursday, July 18 from 3 to 8 p.m. Funeral services will be held Friday, July 19 at 11 a.m. at St. Rose of Lima Church in East Hanover followed by burial at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in East Hanover.
This story was updated Sunday at 9:26 to include an interview with Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo. This story was updated Monday at 8:47 p.m. to include additional information.