Around Yorktown people involved with planning and zoning know Attorney Albert Capellini as the “Canopy King.” He prefers that to where his law career began, as an assistant district attorney in The Bronx.
“I would get to the scene of the crime and the bodies would still be there. Homicide and the violence can take a lot of different forms. After a while, I started to feel more like a mortician,” Capellini says.
Today, Capellini confines his practice to Yorktown where he works almost exclusively in land use and approvals. He says he can go up any street in town and point out exactly which buildings he’s worked on. In front of him an array of paperwork sits on the conference table, while an associate occasionally pops in to use the fax machine. The office isn’t particularly large, and Capellini jokes with members of the office staff. The feeling is comfortable and relaxed.
In the district attorney’s office there would be stints where he was on call to respond to any homicide in his area. The policy was to have the DA’s office processing the case within 24 hours, from presenting evidence to a grand jury to plea bargaining a case. As a result, Capellini was one of the first people the detectives would call.
“The detectives had a way of coping,” Capellini recalls as he describes scenes that almost seem like they come straight out of a television crime drama. “They smoked cigars and burned toast on the stove top just to mask the smell.”
Since then Capellini has served as Yorktown’s town council and twice as supervisor in the 1970s. His first year on the council, 1974, was also his last as an assistant district attorney. He doesn’t feel any need to return to politics and says he prefers to leave that to the politicians.
Capellini’s earned the “Canopy King” moniker for helping gain approval for the town’s first self service gas station, which included a canopy. His most recent project is a Costco he hopes to bring to town. He says he really enjoys helping everyone from small homeowners to large businesses through the legal process of approvals and variances.
There is no looking back with longing for his days in the DA’s office. Capellini knows his decision to shift his legal focus was the right one. “The things I saw, 40 dead bodies in a short time; that encouraged me to do something else,” he says.