William Madonna ()
William J. Madonna, a solo practitioner in the Bronx who was chief counsel to Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, died at home on Friday. He was 55.
Madonna gained recognition as the attorney for the Pelham Parkway Preservation Alliance, working to preserve dozens of trees near and along Pelham Parkway from destruction during a city road project. He also represented area residents in 2012 in suing the city over construction of a sidewalk that narrowed the Pelham Parkway South service road. The suit was ultimately dismissed.
His unexpected passing has left the legal community in the Bronx and elsewhere in shock. Bronx Acting Supreme Court Justice Llinet Rosado said she received more than 100 text messages over the weekend about Madonna’s death.
“I have judges calling from Brooklyn, Staten Island. His death has really rocked the community,” she said. “My husband and I cried ourselves to sleep Saturday night. People are still crying.”
Rosado said she first encountered Madonna around 2008, when she was a court-appointed attorney for children and he was representing fathers in the Integrated Domestic Violence Court.
“He was a formidable opponent,” she said. “We used to like to call him The Pit Bull. He was street smart and book smart. Even though he wasn’t born or raised in the Bronx, he was very much a Bronx boy.”
Madonna was born in Mount Kisco on Oct. 6, 1961, and raised in Yorktown Heights. He received an undergraduate degree from Northeastern University in Boston and a law degree from the New England School of Law.
He began his career in the New York City Corporation Counsel’s office in 1989 as a senior legal specialist and left the following year to join the Bronx District Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor.
In 1994, he opened his own practice in the Morris Park section of the Bronx, where he represented clients in family, criminal and real estate matters.
Marvin Ray Raskin, a Bronx solo and former president of the Bronx County Bar Association, said he and Madonna often represented the same clients in different courts.
“It was a pleasure to work with him,” Raskin said. “He had no ego. He had class, he had integrity. He wanted to do right by the client.”
In 2012, Madonna became chief counsel to Gjonaj, a Bronx Democrat, after working on his election campaign. Gjonaj said Madonna worked for a stipend and “handled everything for me.”
“More than chief counsel, he was a true friend, as much of a friend as a family member,” he said. “He was a great attorney, but what made him so special was his generosity and truly caring about his clients and the community. He fought issues on behalf of the community.”
“He was taken from us too early, but I’m a better person for having him in my life. His loss will remain with us forever,” Gjonaj said.
He is survived by his sons, Matthew and Eric Madonna; his parents, Phyllis and Nicholas Madonna; sisters Susann Carelli and Joan Madonna; and brother Robert Madonna; as well as several nieces and nephews.
A viewing was scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at Schuyler Hill Funeral Home, 3535 E. Tremont Ave. in the Bronx.
The funeral will be held Thursday at Saint Francis de Chantal’s Church, 190 Hollywood Ave., in the Bronx. The family will greet friends at 10 a.m. until the time of the service.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the American Heart Association and the High School for Community Leadership, a scholarship fund.