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Guide to the Nicholas Scoppetta Papers
 MS 3017

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Joseph Ditta

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on April 28, 2022
English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical/Historical Note

Nicholas Scoppetta was born on 6 November 1932 in Manhattan to Italian immigrants Dominick and Margaret (Rubino) Scoppetta. Dominick was a struggling vegetable merchant and dock worker. In 1937 Margaret was arrested for forging a signature on a welfare check. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor petty larceny charge and was sentenced to 90 days' detention. Because of this the three youngest Scoppetta sons, including Nicholas, age five, were removed from the household and placed in foster care. The boys were reunited at Woodycrest, a Bronx orphanage run by the American Female Guardian Society and Home for the Friendless. Nicholas returned to his parents at age twelve, and graduated from Seward Park High School in 1950. His later studies at City College were interrupted by the Korean War. After the Army he attended Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, on the G.I. Bill, graduating in 1958 with a degree in civil engineering.

Back in New York Scoppetta worked by day for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (the same agency that placed him in foster care) and attended Brooklyn Law School by night. He graduated in 1962 and was admitted to the New York State Bar that year. Shortly after, he was appointed an Assistant District Attorney in New York County by District Attorney Frank Hogan. He served in the Manhattan D.A.'s Office until 1969, when he became Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

In 1971 Mayor John Lindsay appointed Scoppetta Associate Counsel to the Commission to Investigate Alleged Police Corruption (a.k.a. the Knapp Commission), which issued its report in 1972. On 1 December Lindsay named Scoppetta Commissioner of Investigation for the City of New York, an appointment renewed by Lindsay's successor, Abraham Beame, in 1974.

On 1 August 1974 New York City Controller Harrison J. Goldin accused Scoppetta of "instructing" a civil servant to enter false information on the Controller's books to deceive auditors. Scoppetta was cleared of any wrongdoing by New York State Special Prosecutor Maurice H. Nadjari.

On 6 December 1976 Mayor Beame named Scoppetta to the newly created post of Deputy Mayor for Criminal Justice, a post he held concurrently as Commissioner of Investigation until 5 January 1978, when he was relieved by incoming Mayor Ed Koch.

After leaving public service Scoppetta joined the faculty of New York University School of Law as Director of the Institute of Judicial Administration. As Professor of Law he taught a seminar, "The Administration of Criminal Justice," between 1979 and 1982.

In 1980 Scoppetta cofounded with Eric A. Seiff (a colleague from the Manhattan D.A.'s Office) the law firm of Scoppetta & Seiff (now called Seiff Kretz & Abercrombie), and practiced law there privately until his return to public service in 1996.

On 11 January 1996, in the wake of the murder of Elisa Izquierdo (1989-1995) by her mother and allegations that caseworkers at New York's Child Welfare Administration missed multiple opportunities to save her, Mayor Rudy Giuliani created the Administration for Children's Services (ACS) and appointed Scoppetta its first commissioner. Scoppetta held that position until 31 December 2001.

On 1 January 2002 Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed Scoppetta as 31st Commissioner of the New York City Fire Department. As the first commissioner after 9/11, much of Scoppetta's time was spent attending memorial services for the 343 firefighters who died in the attacks, and developing methods to address—and avoid—future tragedies. He was succeeded by Salvatore Cassano on 1 January 2010.

Throughout his long and varied career child welfare remained at the heart of Scoppetta's activities. He served on the board of the Children's Aid Society for sixteen years (and as its president between 1987 and 1993). In 1996 he founded New Yorkers for Children, the non-profit partner to the ACS. To honor his dedication, the ACS Children's Center at 492 First Avenue, Manhattan, was renamed the Nicholas Scoppetta Children's Center in 2013.

In 1963 Scoppetta married Susan Kessell, a social worker, with whom he had two children, Andrea and Eric. He died on 24 March 2016 at age 83, in hospice at Bellevue Hospital, Manhattan, next to the Nicholas Scoppetta Children's Center.

[This biography is drawn from the obituaries for Nicholas Scoppetta in the New York Times (26 March 2016) and  New York Daily News (25 March 2016) and from his Wikipedia entry.]