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‘Mr. Maspeth’ steps down from chairmanship of CB 5

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Frank Principe, a longtime member of Community Board 5 and a respected advocate for the community for decades, has stepped down from his position as chairman due to health concerns.

Principe, 93, will remain a member of the executive committee. Vinnie Arcuri, another committee member, will assume the chairmanship in his stead.

Community board members who worked with Principe spoke fondly of his ability to negotiate solutions to disagreements and remembered his strong stand against a plan to build a sludge treatment plant in Maspeth.

"He was an icon in Maspeth," said Holden, who announced the news at CB 5's most recent meeting on June 11. "This is someone I look to see how a guy can dedicate his whole life to the community."

Community Board five includes Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood and Glendale.

Peggy O'Kane, a CB 5 member, said Principe had earned the right to wear his trademark hat which bore the title "Mr. Maspeth."

"He knew everybody well, he was very knowledgeable, very sharp, and he had a very pleasant manner," she said. "He did not seek controversy but when it presented itself he did not shrink from it."

Principe's ability to resolve disputes among warring parties ushered in a new ear of civility on the community board when he assumed the chairmanship seven years ago, district manager Gary Giordano said.

"He is very good at seeing where people are coming from, what their point of view is," Giordano said. "Taking what they want and combining that with what is possible."

"But I've seen him when diplomacy doesn't work," Giordano added quickly. "He can be tough."

He recalled Principe's efforts against a Dept. of Environmental Protection sludge facility slated to be built in Maspeth during the early 1990s. The two men traveled to Silver Spring, Md., to interview residents who lived near a sludge facility.

"We got some complaints and insight and Frank took it and ran with it," he said. "We found out about lung problems that this could cause ... He was fighting it more than anyone I know. He did a tremendous thing for people who live within miles of the site."

O'Kane said Principe was also instrumental in establishing the West Maspeth Local Development Corporation. He was also the president and founder of PrincipeDanna, a readymix concrete supplier. He frequently used his expertise in construction to analyze engineering issues for the community board, O'Kane said.

In March, Principe received the Henry L. Kennedy Award from the American Concrete Institute in recognition of his contributions to the industry.

Board members agreed that Principe thrived on working for the community, and could not imagine that he would stay long in the extended care facility where he is recuperating from surgery to install a pacemaker in his heart.

"We're sure that as soon as he comes out he'll be back to his activist ways," O'Kane said.

Friends also said Principe had a vibrant sense of humor.

Giordano said he once asked Principe what drugs he took, meaning medications.

"Oh, just a gin and tonic every now and then," Principe said.

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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