He was seven years old. By the time he was nine, he was working to help support his family.
“I was a shoeshine boy at the barbershop in Corona,” Oppedisano said. “I would run errands for the guys there, I swept the floors. I never had a childhood, I never played ball, it was always work, work, work.
“But it was great, we loved America,” he added. “This is the land for me, I’m an American boy.”
His family eventually moved to Flushing, and Oppedisano attended PS 14, PS 19 and PS 21. He enrolled in JHS 189 in Whitestone, but wouldn’t see graduation.
“At the start of eighth grade, my father dropped me off at the front door and I walked out the back door and went to work,” he said. “I wanted to work, we didn’t have any money.”
And work he did. In no particular order, he spent time repairing cars in an auto body shop on College Point Boulevard, serving slices at Gloria’s Pizza (now Flushing favorite Lucia’s Pizza) on Roosevelt Avenue, and selling used cars (Pete’s Used Cars).
In 1987, he opened DiSano Construction, and in 1996 he opened his first car wash. He still owns the construction company, as well as Sparkles Car Wash on Farrington Street in Flushing and another in Brooklyn with his sister, Shiny Car Wash on Atlantic Avenue.
After 9/11, Oppedisano and DiSano Construction were called into service, eventually spending two weeks at Ground Zero doing demolition work.
“I was there two hours after it happened and was escorted to the site,” he said. “I was there around the clock for two weeks with my guys, my excavator, and my brother. We did all the work for free.”
On March 30, Oppedisano will accept a “Lifetime Achievement” awards at the Sixth Annual Bishop Ignatius Catanello Memorial Mass and Scholarship Dinner at Immaculate Conception Center in Dougalston.
“It’s a great thing, it’s a legacy,” Oppedisano said of the award. “It’s something for my children and eventually my grandchildren to see, but I’m not big on the flash.”
“Peter is a hardworking business man,” said his brother Joe, who owns the popular Little Neck restaurant Il Bacco. “He’s a good human being, a good soul and a good family man.”
On the day of this interview, his Malba homeBlue Bloods.
In a home office away from the activity he discussed his busy life, which often sees him working seven days a week. (“You have to feed the cow to get the milk!” he jokes.) It’s not exactly the same as the days he used to go to New Jersey with his family to pick tomatoes to turn into sauce they would sell to help make ends meet, but it’s still hard work.
“I do it for my family,” he said. “Give me one room somewhere.”
Oppedisano says family is one of the most important thing in his life. His mother and father, 93 and 82, respectively, live just two doors down. His three children, Amanda (22), Salvatore (17) and Angelina (13) live in Malba with him. His eldest daughter will be the first in the family to earn a college degree.
“I didn’t go to college,” Oppedisano said. “I wanted them to have an education and a degree,” he said.
He says he teaches his kids to be humble and respectful.
“I tell them, ‘everything that I have is going to be for you guys,’” Oppedisano said. “But you have to earn it and respect it and show how you can take it to the next level.”
He also teaches them to give back.
“I believe in karma,” Oppedisano said. “I’m always giving. I’m the kind of guy if I see someone in the street homeless, I would let them sleep in my house.
“It’s because I came from nothing,” he adds. “I know what it’s like to have nothing because I started with nothing.”