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Tee Shirt Story is Politically Inspired

Guest View By Sam Fruscione

Sam Fruscione Niagara Falls Council member

Council member Sam Fruscione is a working man. Not born to wealth, he works as a teacher, then works as a councilman, and then works some more at his little souvenir store on Old Falls St.

Could it be politics? Sam Fruscione has sold Magaddino tee-shirts to tourists and locals over the years. But somehow it is only during election time, that it is suddenly a big deal.

Primary season is here.

I know this because as I seek re-election to the City Council, the local media is writing and talking about my small business: a business that includes the marketing of tee shirts bearing the likeness of Stefano Magaddino.

My brother and I have sold these shirts since 1999. We currently have a storefront location on Prospect Street near the State Park and those shirts make up a very small part of the store.

But this is Primary time and the local media played into the hands of two elected city officials and their operatives by recently covering my business as if it were major-and new-news. The fact is I went down this same road in 2009, as I as I sought re-election to the council. At that time, in 2009, a Dyster friend who was also a city employee attacked me in writing for selling these shirts.  But now, four years later, the media assault was so suspicious and the coverage so out of proportion that I’m responding with this column.

First, the subject of organized crime is a popular one. The Godfather film and the Godfather sequel are recognized in the cinema world as two of the greatest movies ever made and the Godfather novel is still in print. The director, Francis Ford Coppola and actors, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro (all proud Italian Americans) established their award winning careers through these films.

The Sopranos has been the most popular cable television show in cable history and its star - James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano - was a respected Broadway actor and an American of Italian heritage from New Jersey.

Crime, and specifically organized crime, is popular in the arts because it is part of our nation’s history. Crime stories are about people, families, life, death, punishment and redemption and because of this it both entertains and fascinates.

To read, watch or study crime doesn’t make a person a criminal. Are the millions of people that view the Sopranos and the Godfather or read Mario Puzo’s Godfather novel condoning crime? I don’t think so.

While the local media did a genuine hatchet job on me, they chose to ignore the other half of the real crime story. That other half is on the shelf in my store: the part of the Magaddino history that details the fine work of the New York State Police as they shut down the Magaddino criminal enterprise.

George Karalus, a retired state trooper who set up the historic wire taps that toppled the Magaddino family, has appeared on my public access cable television show. His book-The Teflon Don-is for sale in my store and is available on Amazon.  Written with former Buffalo News reporter, Matt Gryta, the book is a fascinating look behind the scenes of the Magaddino crime family, a criminal operation Magaddino presided over for nearly a half century. Mr. Karalus is a distinguished former New York State trooper and I am proud to call him my friend.

Second, the other side of this Magaddino media tee shirt “story” is the unpleasant political gamesmanship that made its coverage possible to begin with. It’s no coincidence that this media hit piece took place as the City Council was being pressured to approve Mayor Dyster’s development arrangement with Mr. Hamister.

The Mayor, Kristen Grandinetti and their supporters in the media were working to portray me as an elected official whose judgment was to be called into question as the Hamister deal remained tabled by the City Council.

The fact is that tee shirts in any shape, size or design are pretty small potatoes in light of the challenges facing Niagara Falls. Unfortunately, when elected officials and their operatives have no solutions to very real problems they have to resort to the nasty tactics of ethnic slurs and “gotcha politics.”

The faces in this petty game may change but the game remains the same. And the game is no more effective in meeting the needs of our city today than it was four years ago.

In light of all of this I remain a proud Niagara Falls resident of Italian heritage. I’m secure in that pride just as I know the other ethnic groups in our city are proud of their respective heritage.

There are a lot of things this city needs but one thing it doesn’t need is to waste time on phony issues trumped up by desperate elected officials and equally desperate candidates. So let’s move forward together for the benefit of our city, and let’s set aside the mean-spirited politics that hurts the city and divides our community.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Jul 30, 2013