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Andrew Ippolito, a founding member of the Property Civic Association, said after an active beginning, membership declined in the 1980s and by the '90s the group only met to discuss special issues. He attributed the dropoff to a "suffocating disease of malaise."The civic group covered the area from Northern Boulevard to the Long Island Expressway between the Clearview Expressway and Bell Boulevard. Founded in the mid-1960s, the group lobbied to clean streets and plant trees along 43rd Avenue and helped place the Veterans monument at a traffic island near the Clearview and Northern Boulevard.The group also opposed developers tearing down old homes-an issue that would later consume Bayside during debates over rezoning-but Ippolito said interest from the community has dropped off in recent years."It's not just local, it's everywhere," he said. "Organizations large and small are having difficulty getting members."BVAC has certainly suffered from that trend. The volunteer group, which was founded in 1955 after it took a city ambulance more than three hours to aid a neighbor, once operated around the clock and answered 500 calls a year.But volunteers described the group as "on the verge of folding" at a recent appeal for money and time at a meeting of Community Board 11.The ambulance corps still runs six-hour shifts six nights a week, loans wheelchairs and other equipment to residents and hosts blood drives and CPR classes. Most recently, BVAC hosted training sessions for the Community Emergency Response Team, a citywide initiative to train local disaster-response teams.The group is asking for monetary donations-- - its costs reach more than $100,000 a year - and volunteers."A lot of people don't realize running this place, it takes time, it takes patience, it takes donations," said BVAC president Warren Terry.Volunteers said the ambulance corps is often the first on the scene and the two ambulances provided critical support on Sept. 11, 2001, ferrying supplies to rescue workers at Ground Zero.Ippolito said he hopes his group's $2,000 donation will help keep the group alive."They've serviced the community for more than 50 years," he said Saturday at a ceremony at BVAC headquarters to present the check to the group. "It's an organization that deserves recognition and support."In addition to the Property Civic's donation and the appeal to CB 11, the East Bayside Homeowners Association is considering a $1,000 gift, pending a vote by the civic. BVAC also had a positive meeting with state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and plans to meet with U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside), Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza (D-Bayside) and Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside)."It means a lot to me," Terry said of the donation. "It shows that our community is still willing to help us."Reach reporter John Tozzi by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 188.
©2006 Community Newspaper Group
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