Bellport icon becomes Gateway’s first honoree
Frank Trotta to be honored at Shake the Shore event
BY LINDA LEUZZI
Frank Trotta’s first Gateway performance was “Oklahoma!” He was 10.
Did that glorious, hoo-ha Rogers and Hammerstein musical with a bit of darkness (poor, rough Jud wanted Laurey; Laurey was repelled, yet attracted) hook him?
“Well it did,” he said. “Going to the movies was one thing, but live theater, that’s different.”
Trotta, a lifelong Bellport resident, kept attending, first with his parents, then with his wife, Marie, ushering their children Frank and Christina through the doors, saying hello to locals; in their seats, a frisson of excitement before the curtain rose.
His support of The Gateway is sincerely unabashed. As Bellport mayor he created a Cultural and Performing Arts District in 1995 with rules, buffer zones and hours so The Gateway could continue among its neighbors and be preserved. Celebrating its 70th year, Trotta will be The Gateway’s first honoree on June 28 at their Shake the Shore event.
“I clearly remember how my dad reacted in our supermarket when the actors came in to buy snacks; he would proclaim, ‘here are the stars of tomorrow!’” recalled Trotta in his second-floor office, a memory museum of his roots, his family, awards and photos.
The supermarket was Trotta Brothers, a Red Scarlet store that was the IGA of its time. Frank Trotta Sr. ran it with his brother; Frank Jr. packed groceries, swept floors and found products for customers before he biked down to the bay or met friends. The supermarket is now Dianne and Peter Romano’s Bellport Jewelers & Rarities on South Country Road alongside the yoga studio, but he occupies the same building that stretches back with offices off a leafy alleyway.
Did he ever want to perform himself?
Well, he was a member of the Junior Playcrafters cast at the Community Center.
“I was a magician in one show,” he recalled. “I remember being on stage. Maybe in some way, Gateway prepared me to be mayor.”
He laughed. But it was some run. Like six years as trustee and 25 as mayor, presiding at the same Community Center platform he once emoted from.
“When they called me to be their honoree on their 70th year, I was taken aback,” he said. “I don’t serve on the board. I go to the galas. (He’s only missed one, officiating at a wedding.)
Executive artistic director Paul Allan said there had been rumblings in the neighborhood in the mid-1990s about The Gateway because it was never recognized as a theater.
“Before establishing the Cultural and Performing Arts District, it made The Gateway a target because the zoning didn’t specifically allow for a theater,” he said. “We were in a special residential zone with a special-use variance to allow the theater. It was a well-written piece of legislation. Any of the questions and issues were addressed.”
Allan was asked about the selection process.
“We decided it was time to create this annual award because so many people have been there for us, but in starting it and who should it be, there was so much history with Frank and the ups and downs of Gateway. Frank was always very fair and balanced and even after his mayoral tenure, we had 25 additional years of support with his publications. It’s been a lot of give from Frank.”
Trotta is a child of his parents’ generation. As his dad and uncle stocked the shelves, maintained its appearance, priced the items, interacted with customers on health, baseball, their kids’ accomplishments and his mother assisted with bookkeeping, the work ethic was observed and emulated. He publishes Fire News, distributed on Long Island and seven other states, and 50 Plus LifeStyles. He was also president of Prime Time Travel.
He is a member of the Stony Brook Council and the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency, board vice chairman of Suffolk Federal Credit Union, and chaplain of the Bellport Fire Department. He discussed Bellport’s essence; in 2001, as mayor, the Historic District and Historic Preservation Committee was created. “We were going through a time where people were tearing down homes,” he recalled. Honoring the design, workmanship and architecture of existing historic residences was a nod to quality-of-life aspects that mattered; the village does exude a palpable serenity.
His publishing chops were nurtured first as editor of the Long Island University - Southampton College newspaper. He knew the area of seniors and the aging from his time as director of the Suffolk County Office for the Aging and his father was a lifelong Bellport firefighter. So when opportunities presented themselves in both areas, he took the risk.
Trotta is quick to credit his wife Marie.
“I would not have been able to accomplish what I’ve done over the years without her,” he said frankly. Both passed the gauntlet to their children, prompting them to help in the office as they grew up. Frank Trotta III is now president and owner of UMG Cleaning; Christina Trotta Roupas is a corporate attorney.
What was he planning to say at the Gateway gala?
“I’ve got to think about that weekend,” he said, adding humorously, “I can’t sing. I can’t dance.”
The Gateway’s Shake the Shore event honoring Frank Trotta will take place this Friday, June 28 at 6 p.m. at Sunset Harbour, East Patchogue. For tickets, visit www.thegateway.org.
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