Friday, August 5, 2011

2nd Ave. Serenade Hardhat Starts Spreadin' Tunes

Ironworker Gary Russo

A Second Avenue Subway hardhat with a velvety voice is helping to soothe the headaches of construction-weary Upper East Siders.

For the past two weeks, Gary Russo -- a Local 40 ironworker on the $4 billion project -- has devoted his precious 30 minutes of break time to sing Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin standards.

Nearby residents need relief from constant sounds of jack-hammers and heavy machinery on the street, he says.

"We've infected this neighborhood with noise," he said. "I'd be up in arms, too."

Every day, the blue-eyed laborer lugs his karaoke kit to work from his Queens home.
SONGSTER: Ironworker Gary Russo sweetens the sounds of Second Avenue Subway construction yesterday with a little lunchtime music.

In his orange construction jumper and Carhartt pants, he looks nothing like his idol, Sinatra.

Then he starts to sing.

Standing in front of a sign that reads, "Forget all the noise, traffic and the impact of the 2nd Ave. Subway. Enjoy the music," Russo croons like he was born in the big-band era.

His versions of "Mack the Knife" and "Sweet Caroline" have stopped traffic and inspired strangers to bop around like bobby-soxers.

"This 80-year-old guy just grabbed this, like, 25-year-old girl and started dancing with her," said David Fischer, an Upper East Sider who filmed Russo and loaded him onto YouTube.

"It's awesome. He puts everyone in a good mood."

Russo's spot-on take of Sinatra's "Summer Wind" yesterday had fans screaming for an encore.

"Do one more song! Do one more song!" dozens of listeners chanted.

Russo -- who can perform for only the 30 minutes he's allotted for lunch -- obliged with a quick tune before going back into the hole.

For years, the subway star said he's been "driving my family crazy with karaoke, and I sing in the shower and the car."

His goodwill campaign appears to be working with locals -- after years of failed attempts by MTA brass.

"I got this one lady who hates the construction," said Paul Rodriguez, who works on the site.

"She's always looking for something to complain about. One day she was walking across the street and she saw Gary singing."

The woman was star-struck.

"It was the first time I saw her smile," Rodriguez said.


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