PEEKSKILL, N.Y. -- Former Peekskill Mayor Fred "Jay' Bianco is being remembered as the man who helped lead Peekskill's renaissance.
Bianco died Saturday at the age of 84. A graduate of Peekskill High School and a former attorney, he served as mayor from 1976 to 1981.
While mayor, Bianco purchased the Paramount Theater (now known as Paramount Hudson Valley), saving it from demolition and dedicated Peeskill's Riverfront Green as a public park.
The Peekskill police station, courthouse, community center and Centennial Hose Firehouse were constructed during his administration.
Frank Catalina, Peekskill's current mayor, said he knew Bianco for more than 40 years.
"Everyone knew Jay," Catalina said. "I think of 'Matlock' when I think of him. He was a country lawyer who wanted to settle and find a resolution both parties could live with."
Catalina said he spoke with Bianco when he considered running for mayor. Though Bianco was a Democrat and Catalina was a Republican, Bianco was encouraging.
"I asked him to vote for me," Catalina said. "He laughed and said he was going to stay home. That's the best he could do."
Bianco was a true gentleman, Catalina said. His wife, Priscilla worked as his secretary and they would drive to and from work together and eat lunch together.
"He was a fixture at the courthouse," Catalina said. "He would always have an anecdote about his golf game or tell you a good spot to have lunch."
Peekskill Councilwoman Drew Claxton said Bianco was a visionary who helped protect Peekskill.
"He ended years of urban renewal that displaced families and destroyed a great deal of Peekskill’s architectural history, ushering in a new era for the appreciation of Peekskill as a historic community," Claxton said.
Claxton said when people talk about the city, they often talk about the Riverfront Green and the Paramount, both purchased during Bianco's administration.
He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Priscilla Walsh Bianco; two children, one grandchild, and a sister.
Visitation is Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Joseph F. Nardone Funeral Home in Peekskill. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Thursday at 10 a.m., at the Assumption Church. Burial will follow at Assumption Cemetery.
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