John Bonizio, an owner of Metro Optics, is the Founder of the Westchester Square Business Improvement District. A Bronx native born 4 blocks from where he works at Metro Optics on 25 Westchester Square, Bonizio grew up in Morris Park and it didn’t take long for him to make his way into the optical industry.
At 14 years of age, Bonizio found his first summer job at an optical store on Unionport Road & East Tremont Avenue. By the time he finished high school, Bonizio had become the master bench-man who made glasses by hand at the optical store. He went on to complete a degree in optometric dispensing at New York Technical College. As a young person growing up in NYC, Bonizio spent most of his weekends at a nightclub in New Rochelle. It was there that he met and became friends with Michael Ungaro, owner of Metro Optics in Parkchester. Bonizio was the club’s bartender, Ungaro the DJ.
One day, they came to realize that they had attended the same college and received the same optical degree. The two became business partners and in 1992, Bonizio began to operate the Metro Optics store in Westchester Square.
Throughout the 1990s, Bonizio witnessed the deterioration of the Westchester Square neighborhood, its decline in safety and the closure of storefronts and businesses. As Merchant Association President, Bonizio knew the action was needed to improve the district in which he was invested as a business owner. Through partnerships with local merchants and elected officials in The Westchester Square district, Bonizio was able to advance his goal of establishing a business improvement district. It took 5 years of hard work, perseverance, and a lengthy legislative process, but Bonizio finally established the Westchester Square Business Improvement District and became its Board Chair in 2012.
Bonizio’s leadership has resulted in successfully negotiating a renovation for the Westchester Square district and he takes pride in a thriving BID. “Westchester Square has a rich history and I’m grateful I was able to help in the revitalization of an area in the Bronx that is historically important,” stated Bonizio.
Today Bonizio works to establish other Bronx BID’s and has been instrumental in establishing the Morris Park and Throggs Neck BID’s. “I hope to see these nearby BIDs, all driving commerce, culture, and community,” said Bonizio.