Characters Of The Village

Rocco Pellone, the“Mayor of West Fourth Street”

By Joy and Brian Pape

Our friend Elissa, one of our earlier featured Characters, told us, “You’ve got to meet the Mayor of West Fourth Street.” It sounded perfect for our column. Sure enough, when we met Rocco Pellone one lovely afternoon in one of the empty street sheds along West 4th Street, we were soon convinced.

Rocco and Ahmed became friends in 1979, so Ahmed can attest to Rocco’s stature as “Mayor of West Village” today, as they stand in front of the Music Inn on West 4th Street. Credit: Brian Pape, AIA.

Joy and Brian for Village View (VV): We’re glad to meet you, Rocco. We’ve heard a lot about you. Why do you think they call you the “Mayor of West 4th Street”?

Rocco Pellone (RP): Well, I’ve lived in this one place for the last 49 years, and everybody around here knows me! My parents met here in the West Village and got married at St. Anthony’s Church in 1945. My father was a well-known boxer, Tony Pellone (it rhymes) so a lot of people here knew of my family, even after my parents moved to Brooklyn. After my parents divorced, I moved back here to West 4th Street at age 12 and attended local schools. Later, I became a part-time super for the building I lived in, while I worked other jobs at other places. But this was always home for me.

VV: What else do you think people would say about you?
RP: Some of it you couldn’t print! Seriously, though, people often come to me for advice, ‘words of wisdom’ you might say, and I’m happy to help them. I also have always tried to help the residents of my building, especially the elderly, when they ask for help; grocery shopping, carrying heavy packages, just a lot of little things.
Elissa: They say he’s got a heart of gold.
At this point, we were joined by Rocco’s friend, Ahmed who immigrated here from Morocco in 1979. Ahmed and Rocco worked together for several years as cooks at the London Squire Restaurant nearby.
VV: Tell us more about your day job, Rocco.
RP: I have worked as a maintenance supervisor for a 35-story building in mid-town for the past 34 years. I would take the E-train Monday through Friday, until Covid hit. Then I made a deal with a taxi driver to take me to work for $18.
It’s hard work, and it’s killing my back, and I’m getting ready to retire soon.
VV: What are some of your other connections here?
RP: I am a professional musician, comedian and poet. I’ve played with a lot of great musicians over the years, and I still do regular gigs at local clubs, especially the Bitter End and the Music Inn. One of my best friends is Scott, who I call Rex, and we play together. For the last six years I’ve been writing poetry. I read a new poem once a month at the Bitter End (hosted by Claire). I like to spend my time outside, so I get to see and meet people.
I’ve also made friends with all the dogs in the neighborhood, even the ones who don’t like other people.
VV: What are some of your best memories here?
RP: I remember the blackout of 1977. It was so hot that day, that when the power went off, everyone just poured out onto the streets, and had a party. It was a great scene. Of course, back then, everyone knew each other, the neighbors, the shopkeepers, the policemen, the musicians and more. There were a lot of young children around, a lot of big families (a lot of Italians). Now, it seems they all moved to New Jersey or Staten Island. There aren’t many kids here now.
I remember meeting a lot of famous people, since Frank Stella had his studio right here on Jones Street, and Bob Dylan lived right next door. John Lennon would come around, and his son Sean was the first customer at Music Inn to buy a new Cerod electric instrument there.
VV: What are some of your other memories here?
RP: There are so many, of course. It was such a sad day when St. Vincent’s Hospital closed. My mother was one of the very last patients. It still hurts going by there to see it gone.
The Music Inn has been right here since 1958, and it is so much a part of the old Village. Across the street, there was a great restaurant called The Bagel, where you could get anything to eat, or pick up packages or keys, or hang out with friends. There are lots of other bars and restaurants that have long gone, but there’s always new ones moving in.
VV: Has Covid made a big difference for you?
RP: I’ve had Covid once over the Christmas holidays, and I didn’t have to be hospitalized.
I noticed when Tio Pepe offered frozen cocktails to go, all the drunks would come and hang outside with their drinks-in-a-bag, and since I was outside, I got to know a lot of them. I don’t like these street sheds, though; the rats are bad, trucks have trouble getting between them (on both sides of the street), and even bikers can’t get through.
VV: We’ll look forward to seeing you perform at the Bitter End or the Music Inn soon.