By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — Move over, San Gennaro. Little Italy activists have a new fight on their hands.
Fresh off their victory in preserving the full Mulberry Street festival, downtown's Italian-American residents are now advocating for a museum devoted to their heritage at Pier A.
There's just one problem: The Battery Park City Authority rejected the museum proposal and announced this week that the pier will become an oyster bar and event space instead.
"This is unacceptable," said John Fratta, a leader in the San Gennaro fight. "Do we really, really want another restaurant down there?"
Fratta added that Battery Park City already has the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Irish Hunger Memorial, so it only makes sense to give Italian Americans the same opportunity.
"It's called fairness," said Fratta, who is a member of Community Board 1.
A Facebook message Fratta posted on Wednesday calling for support has already drawn 20 comments from people saying they are ready to fight.
The 125-year-old Pier A, on the edge of Battery Park, is a particularly fitting location for a museum because of the many Italian immigrants who passed through Ellis Island, Fratta said.
Fratta plans to take his case directly to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who controls appointments to the Battery Park City Authority. He also hopes CB1 will back the cause.
The authority did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Joseph Grano, the Italian-American businessman who cooked up the $25 million museum proposal, had not heard of Fratta's efforts and said he did not plan to fight the Battery Park City Authority's decision.
"I don't want to politicize this," Grano said Friday morning. "If the process was conducted appropriately, and I have no reason to believe it wasn't, then you respect the process."
Grano said he will continue to pursue his dream of building a museum devoted to Italians' contributions to New York City, but he will look for another location. Grano has already received promises of donations, and he expects to have a built-in audience among the 4.5 million Italian Americans who live in the tri-state area.
Grano sees the museum as a way of keeping all those Italian-American residents in touch with their heritage.
"Some if not most of my success came from values I learned from my grandparents and parents," said Grano, former chairman of UBS Financial Services. "Those values tend to dissipate as the older generations pass on. A world-class and iconic museum is one way of maintaining those values and passing them on to future generations."