Charlie Cifarelli -The Star at the Intersection of 14th & 2nd

In this interview with Charlie Cifarelli, Kevin P. Donaldson brings us the story of The Star at the Intersection of 14th & 2nd. As a child, Charlie survived abusive parents, experienced homelessness, felled prey to addiction and went through the revolving door of rehab and recovery.

Star- The Dog that had to get shot to save a life

Salvation is often in the last place you look. I always looked at that phrase with wonder, thinking to myself, if it was in the first place I looked; there would be no need to look any further. The crux meaning of that phrase is that the hidden gems that bring us to a better place, are found where we would never look, in locations we could never imagine, and in the most unusual arenas. Those moments that leave us scratching our head wondering, “who is the savior and who is the saved”?

Charlie Cifarelli spent a lifetime looking for salvation. Finding that corner of the globe that he best fits. Born in the era of peace, love, and acceptance of the politically charged and  tumultuous time of the 1960s, Charlie seemed to be the one person that was excluded from the beauty of the time.  Born in a Harlem hospital and growing up on Long Island, Charlie was part of a household that was in chaos.  Charlie‘s father, Charlie Cifarelli, Senior, was a wiseguy semi-criminal associate of Joseph Imbruglia of the French Connection fame.  The 1960-62 operation to intercept a French heroin shipment with a street value today of $32m. Often treating Charlie with the same disregard and tough guy attitude that was necessary of a gangster who operated in that time.  

There was something behind Charlie‘s father‘s aggression and dislike of him that was never fully explained till much later in his life. On numerous occasions, Charlie was kicked out of his house, often when he was too young to fend for himself. One of his earlier recollections is being thrown out of the house at eight years old and surviving outdoors for days without so much as a search party going to look for him. Later in life Charlie discovered that his fathers distemper towards him was a result of not believing that he was his blood but the product of infidelity.  It was these frequent separations from his parents that left Charlie, looking for something, looking for that connection that most children had with their parents from the first day they were born.  

This need for connection and lack of parental affection brought Charlie to a place of desperation. Finding himself in the middle of New York City’s busy intersection at 14th and 2nd, a known narcotics market, Charlie would score whatever drugs he could find. None of this raised alarm bells because Charlie was a young, handsome, athletically built young man who didn’t appear to have any issue with drugs or alcohol. He was a master survivor, putting on masks when necessary to blend in the society, fooling everybody.  His addiction found him in scrapes with the law and arrested being put in some of the most dangerous precincts in New York City, including the infamous 75th precinct in Brooklyn.  

A fortuitous meeting on a train by a gentleman who saw a damaged youth lead Charlie to seek help in an upstate New York monastery. Here Charlie was able to break his addiction to drugs and alcohol that gripped him so tightly. Charlie found hope, he found community, he found a connection, and when he achieved these unfamiliar necessities, his life radically changed.  

This monastery rehabilitation center allowed Charlie the moment of clarity to break that chain of abuse from not only drugs and alcohol, but also his father.  It was an easy decision when he met a young lady to get married and move away from the city that caused so much pain. Charlie moved to Nebraska to start a new life.

Something that he found out very quickly was you can take a guy out of New York, but you can’t take New York out of the guy. 

Charlie moved on with his life and everything seemed to be smooth sailing. The connection that he sought out so desperately with his new wife crumbled like dry plaster. Charlie was working in a correctional institution as an officer in some of the most dangerous penitentiaries in the country working the most difficult assignment of death row.  He had been on death row himself under a self imposed sentence held incarcerated by drug.  Due to the stresses of the job and life, Charlie backslid and found the bottle once again. Before he knew it, the grip of addiction had him once more. It was different this time, this was a familiar setting for Charlie so he knew quickly that help was needed. Finally sobering up and realizing that life inside a penitentiary has a career was not for him.

He began to work in sanitation and developed a business model rising to be one of the most respectable and reliable companies in Lincoln, Nebraska. Now, being the boss of his own company with success and seeing things through sober eyes, Charlie had a new outlook on life. Although he lived thousands of miles from his home of New York, he always looked back and read all of the news from his never forgotten home.

New York City used to give shelter dogs to its homeless as a companionship program to assist those on the street with the lonely life of being shiftless.  On August 13th, 2012, Lech Stankiewicz, a Polish immigrant, was on the corner of 14th and 2nd with his dog Star. Star was a pitbull, one of the most misunderstood and feared breeds of dog. Lech was an addict with some serious medical issues and began to have a seizure. Police were called to render medical aid, but Lech’s faithful companion Star would not let anybody near her friend, especially during an emergency. The police arrived and were put in a difficult position. Their job is to render aid and preserve life, but there is a pitbull in the way of them fulfilling their duties. The choice was made and one shot was fired at the pitbull hitting Star directly in the eye. The onlookers on the street stared in horror as this dog writhes around on the ground in pain. This heart wrenching video is too difficult to watch but is out there on the Internet for all to see. 

Back in Lincoln, Nebraska Charlie is in his office and watches this story unfold. He cannot believe what he is watching, thinking of a former dog of his that once got struck by a car while he was in his worst of times, reminding Charlie of a time when the dog was his only friend. 

The office personnel in Charlie’s sanitation company all dismissed the dog as certainly dead, but something in Charlie told him that this dog is still alive. It was as if an obsession overcame him to reach out and find the location of this dog. Charlie contacted  the New York City Police Department, who quickly put out a press release, stating that the dog died on scene. Something in Charlie told him this wasn’t the truth and he continued to question and research. “There’s no way star is dead, star is alive” Charlie would tell himself over and over.

In an effort worthy of a Sherlock Holmes novel, Charlie researched over and over again, until finally a report started to leak that the dog Star was not dead, but expected to die any day. On a feverish mission, Charlie was able to track down the shelter Star was staying in from one single photograph.  Looking at a DOT number, an identifier on all large comercial trucks in the United States, on the side of a truck from a blurry picture. Through that number Charlie knew that Star was in the Philadelphia Pennsylvania area. 

Tracking down the exact location of every shelter in the area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Charlie finally hit pay dirt and located this injured animal who was living under another name. After Star was shot, the optics for the New York City  Police Department were so bad that they had every animal rights activist group crawling all over the city looking for this pitbull. They had to ship Star off to another state under a different name in an undisclosed location. Star was officially in the witness protection program of sorts.

After many conversations, Charlie was able to grant access to start the Dog with an official meeting as long as no photographs were taken. Charlie packed his car up and drove cross country to meet this dog that he felt a deep connection with. Once arriving at the shelter and meeting Star for the first time, Charlie instantly knew why he was on this quest. Charlie and Star were now not just connected, they were bonded. Two lost souls that need one another to bring light into their lives with connection, hope, and unconditional love.

After a lot of red tape and multiple phone calls, Charlie was able to adopt Star. Star came home and became the constant companion of Charlie Cifarelli. Bringing out emotion that Charlie had buried deep since the days when his father showed him very little affection. This dog forgave Charlie’s drug abuse and past transgressions. A pure soul in this world who is just happy to have a companion, to have a connection.

That one intersection that changed so many lives in New York City is the basis for Charlie’s 2022 book 14th and 2nd. Star the dog has inspired so many, including Liz Berge, a talented musician who crafted the song Star’s Journey, and Jenn Sanchez’s kids book I’m a Star.  Star touched so many lives but most of all touched Charlie’s life until the day she died in February 2021.  Because of the effect on Charlie, he chose to start a nonprofit, rescuing pitbulls and relocating them, and finding new homes called The Star Project. Star’s legacy is one that will outlast her lifetime for centuries to come. 

Star touched so many lives but most of all touched Charlie’s life until the day she died in February 2021.  Because of the effect on Charlie, he chose to start a nonprofit, rescuing pitbulls and relocating them, and finding new homes called The Star Project. Star’s legacy is one that will outlast her lifetime for centuries to come. At the corner of 14th and 2nd, the crossroads of two souls, where a man and a dog both were lost looking for a better life, filled with love and affection, finally meeting each other at the right place in time. That place where Charlie would score his drugs, and where a homeless dog was shot and nearly killed.  

Do you want to share your story and inspire our readers ? Know that every story is paving the way for a brighter, happier future.

kevin-p-donaldson
kevin-p-donaldson

An accomplished author, seasoned Motivational Speaker and Podcast Host, Kevin P. Donaldson is known for transforming the lives of audiences. His talks are attended by people of all ages and backgrounds. Kevin's approach toward finding success and healing is approached by embracing your pain and running toward it head-on.

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