Louis Matarazzo, a retired New York City police officer and a longtime police union representative from Rockville Centre, died on Feb. 12, at age 83.
Over the past half-century, Matarazzo dedicated his life to law enforcement. He was a lifetime member of the NYPD’s Columbia Association, the fraternal organization of Italian-American police, and a stalwart champion of any cause that supported and endorsed his beloved profession.
Matarazzo was the son of an Italian shoemaker, according to a 2006 article in The New York Times, and was fiercely proud of his Italian-American heritage. He grew up in East Harlem, and his family later moved to the South Bronx, where he attended James Monroe High School. He started his career with the NYPD in 1964, as a patrolman assigned to the 108th Precinct in Long Island City.
By the mid-1970s, he had settled in Rockville Centre with his wife of more than 60 years, Frances, and their five children.
Matarazzo was elected to his first full-time position with the Police Benevolent Association in 1977, and spent the next 23 years working his way up through the ranks to become president of the PBA — the largest police union in the United States, representing more than 60,000 active and retired NYPD officers.
“Lou was a force, a gentleman who believed in the work we do as police officers,” U.S. Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, a retired NYPD officer, said on Twitter. “He spent his life committed to making law enforcement more respected, better trained, and fairly compensated.”
During his tenure with the union, Matarazzo served on the Rules, Grievance and Negotiating committees. He famously matched wits with then New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and served on the Police Merger Committee in the 1990s with former Police Commissioner William Bratton, as well as the Police Pension Board.
Matarazzo left the PBA in 1998, and retired from the force a year later. But he didn’t stay retired for long before starting a new career, lobbying state lawmakers on behalf of law enforcement unions in the city and around the state.
In 2000 he was named the legislative director of the NYPD Detectives Endowment Association, representing 18,000 active and retired detectives, and began dividing his time between New York City and Albany.
He also served as legislative director of the NYPD Lieutenants Benevolent Association and the NYC Captains Endowment Association. He was a member of the legislative committee of the New York State Association of PBAs, and chaired the state Public Employees Conference, representing more than 200,000 members of dozens of public-sector unions.
Matarazzo played a major role in the passage of several laws to protect the salaries and pensions — as well as the health and welfare benefits — of municipal workers. He was instrumental in passing legislation that created a supplemental pay structure for police and firefighters in addition to a pension, and helped lead the effort to allow police arbitration with state negotiators instead of the city.
“Lou was a constant presence in Albany fighting for our men and women in law enforcement,” Assemblyman Ed Ra said in a tweet.
One of Matarazzo’s proudest achievements was helping pass legislation to institute disability pensions and line-of-duty death benefits for those who became ill or died as a result of their work at ground zero after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
In 2006, he was appointed to the Governor’s 9/11 Worker Protection Task Force, and served as its board’s vice chairman.
He also spent decades working with COP-Shot, a statewide program that offers cash incentives for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone who fires at police.
“I was good friends with Lou,” Rockville Centre PBA President James Carty said. “I was on the (State Association of PBAs) executive board, which he was a lobbyist for, and I knew him quite well. His passing is a great loss to the police and labor communities.”
Matarazzo loved baseball, and was a lifelong fan of the Yankees. He was also a devoted fan of Iona University, where his son, Lou Jr., played baseball for the Gaels. Lou Sr. also enjoyed reading, fine dining, and spending time with his family.
He is survived by his wife; his five children, Anna Maria Barbieri (Tommy), Louis Matarazzo Jr. (Pasqua), Carla Haynes (Mark), John Matarazzo and Peter Matarazzo; his grandchildren, Brianna (John), Thomas, Gabriela (Zach), Olivia, Sophia, Angelina, Louis and Elena; his great-granddaughter, Lily Mae; and his dear friend Edward Arrigoni.
Hundreds attended Matarazzo’s funeral Mass at St. Agnes Cathedral last Friday, which was led by an NYPD motorcade. After the service, his casket was carried by his fellow officers and transported to Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.
In lieu of flowers, his family asks that donations be sent to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or the NYC PBA Widows and Children’s Fund.