PITTSTON — Rose Randazzo remembers walking from Pine Street to the David Blight Dance Studio in the early 1960s. The sidewalks glistened with a design that featured shards of glass in the concrete.
“It was a magical place,” she said.
Over the last several years, Randazzo and a team of dedicated people have revitalized Main Street. She was the driving force behind one of the biggest stories of the year: the Inspiration Mural on the Newrose Building. But her accolades don’t end there.
Because of her dedication to the downtown, Randazzo has been named the 2015 Sunday Dispatch Greater Pittston Person of the Year. The Sunday Dispatch Person of the Year award started in 2000. Since then, the Sunday Dispatch has chosen a person annually who has impacted life in Greater Pittston the most over the course of the previous year. Since 2000, 15 Person of the Year awards have been presented.
Although Randazzo, 54, has helped change the landscape of downtown Pittston for nearly two decades, the city made great strides in 2015. Five years ago, Randazzo was named Main Street Manager, a non-paid, volunteer position.
“I always have a great team behind me,” Randazzo said. “I’m so proud of the public art. You have to have a reason for people to come here.”
From the beginning, Randazzo’s goal was to have the most public art of any American city Pittston’s size (1.7 square miles). That goal is closer to becoming a reality on Main Street.
Reviving Main Street
Back in the 1960s, when Randazzo was just a child, she thought Petula Clarks’ rendition of “Downtown” was about Pittston. Twenty years after Randazzo considered Pittston a magical place, she began to see her beloved town take a turn for the worse.
“It was a ghost town,” she said. “To see that (from the) magical place I saw as a little girl was devastating. I couldn’t let that happen.”
In the early 1990s, most of the buildings on Main Street were vacant as many people headed to the malls popping up around the area.
“It wasn’t anyone’s fault,” Randazzo said of the change on Main Street. “People just didn’t have a reason to stay downtown.”
It wasn’t until 1996 that Randazzo and a group of Pittston residents decided to take matters into their own hands. That’s when Downtown Tomorrow was created, a team that included Randazzo, Lori Nocito, James Zarra and former Mayor Michael Lombardo.
“I see art everywhere and that makes me so happy,” Randazzo said. “It’s such an accomplishment for the group and everyone that started in 1996. We didn’t know how we were going to get people back downtown. I can’t even believe it’s really Pittston.”
Lombardo was named the first Sunday Dispatch Greater Pittston Person of the Year in 2000. At the time, Lombardo had been mayor for two years and helped take the city to the next level. He said all that success couldn’t have been accomplished without Randazzo.
“She has been, to me, one of those critical people who have been there from the beginning,” Lombardo said. “The most important thing is that she cares for the city. That’s the thing that allows us to do the things we can do.”
Lombardo is proud of what Main Street and the downtown have become. However, while he loves seeing the art, he sees it as more of a change in the level of confidence the city has.
“We can point to a ton of physical changes,” he said. “The thing that will matter the most through the next 50 years is there is now a belief that anything is possible. Rose is a big part of that.”
Five years ago, Randazzo approached Mayor Jason Klush and the city council about becoming Main Street Manager and taking on the responsibilities of revitalizing the town. The vote passed with ease. Whether it’s new businesses or artwork, Randazzo is usually behind the scenes.
Bringing inspiration to Pittston
Pittston’s most recent major art project is the Inspriational Mural located on the side of the Newrose Building.
Known as “Pittston’s first skyscraper” in 1922, the Newrose is now home to one of the largest murals in Pennsylvania. The project, spearheaded by Randazzo and completed by muralist Michael Pilato, is a worldwide project linking inspiration murals throughout the United States and countries like Norway, Sweden, Burma and other places where Pilato hopes to design murals over the next 10 years.
The mural is dedicated to Greater Pittstonians. Pilato depicted more than 40 people who have had an impact on life in the area.
“I’m in love with it,” Randazzo said. “Every time I see it, I see something different and something better. It’s the town center now.”
Randazzo raised about $100,000 from private donors over the past two years to pay for the mural, which was officially dedicated and finished in September.
“That mural makes this city special,” she said. “You’re not used to seeing that stuff in little towns in Northeastern Pennsylvania.”
Besides the mural, downtown Pittston is well known for its Second Friday Artwalks. Every second Friday during the summer months, craft and art vendors line the streets. Because of the artwalks, and the work around town, “American Craft Week” named Pittston the eighth-best town for craft lovers last year.
Saving the city’s gems
Adding art to the city is a major priority for Randazzo. But that’s not where her spirit ends.
The first building Randazzo helped revitalize under her Main Street Manager role was the building at 26 Main St. that houses Napoli’s Pizza. That project was completed in November 2011 and, according to Randazzo, it is the first and only building with Italianate architecture in Pittston.
In the mid-1990s, Randazzo bought the Valley Dress Factory at 30 Main St. in Pittston. She would later restore the building into her office space where she practices real estate and personal injury law.
A few years after Randazzo restored the dress factory, she was heartsick when she found out the city might demolish the Christopher Building, where Palazzo 53 now sits. She purchased the building and restored it.
“How horrible would it be if Palazzo 53 wasn’t there?” she asked. “We have to save every historical building we can.”
Randazzo said none of this could be accomplished without the help of Ron Faraday and the Greater Pittston Historical Society.
“You can’t determine where you’re going unless you remember where you came from,” Randazzo said. “We can’t go forward without that. The historical society allowed that to happen.”
Pittston born, Pittston proud
Randazzo is no stranger to being the focal point of large events in Greater Pittston. In 2015, she was named grand marshal of the annual Tomato Festival Parade.
In 1984, the Sunday Dispatch ran a story on a former Pittston Area cheerleading captain who started her own mail-order business. She had written books which sold over 22,000 copies. She owned her own ad agency that dealt with major teen- oriented magazines. She was 21 years old.
That was Randazzo.
Following her time at Pittston Area, Randazzo graduated from The University of Scranton. In 1987, she graduated from Villanova University Law School.
Randazzo is married to Geoffrey Pizzuto and the couple currently resides in Scranton. They have a son, Geoffrey, 13-year-old student at St. Paul’s in Scranton.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick