Nicholas Scoppetta, a longtime New York City official who took charge of the FDNY for eight years in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, died in Manhattan Thursday. He was 83.
Scoppetta’s son, Eric, of East Hampton said his father, the fire commissioner from 2002 through 2009, died of cancer while in hospice care.
“Nicholas Scoppetta was instrumental to rebuilding the FDNY during a time of unimaginable loss and devastation,” the current commissioner, Daniel Nigro, said in a statement. “The department is stronger today thanks to his leadership in the years following September 11th.”
In a public service career dating back more than a half-century, Scoppetta served as a deputy mayor in the Abe Beame administration, investigations commissioner for two mayors and the first head in 1996 of the city’s then-new agency to protect child welfare, the Administration for Children’s Services, under Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
His final position was as Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s first fire commissioner, starting less than four months after the department lost 343 personnel in the attacks that toppled the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
“At every turn in his career, Nick succeeded in making our city a better place,” Bloomberg said in a statement.
During his tenure, the city experienced the fewest fire deaths on record, Bloomberg said upon Scoppetta’s departure in 2009.
But Scoppetta also tangled with labor leaders during his leadership. A fire in August 2007 at the former Deutsche Bank building, damaged by the Sept. 11 attacks and undergoing demolition, killed two firemen and a Department of Investigation probe revealed substantial lapses in the FDNY’s inspection procedures.
Scoppetta was born on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the youngest son of Italian immigrants.
When he was 4 or 5 — he once told a reporter he doesn’t remember how old — he was placed into shelter and lived in foster care until turning 12.
He served two years in the U.S. Army and graduated with an engineering degree from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, in 1958 on the G.I. Bill. The future city official earned a law degree from Brooklyn Law School in 1962, and had various jobs as a prosecutor in Manhattan state and federal courts, as well as posts investigating police corruption under Mayors John V. Lindsay and Giuliani.
In addition to a son, Scoppetta is survived by his widow, Susan; a daughter, Andrea; and three grandchildren.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who called Scoppetta “brilliant,” ordered that flags in New York City be lowered at half-staff until further notice.
His son said the family would follow Scoppetta’s wishes to be cremated. A memorial service is to be held Wednesday at a city intake center named in his honor on First Avenue, the Nicholas Scoppetta Children’s Center.