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Principe, known as ‘Mr. Maspeth,’ dies at 94

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"Frank will always be remembered as 'The Mayor of Maspeth,' a leader, a builder, a fighter and a champion for his neighborhood," said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, who honored Principe during her most recent State of the Borough address.

Active in community affairs since the 1930s, the father of two helped lay the political, economic and physical foundation of Maspeth, Ridgewood, and Middle Village. He steered the development of Maurice Park as the president of the Ridgewood Plateau Taxpayer's Civic Association in the 1940s; helped erect an aluminum extruding plant in Maspeth during World War II ; and founded the West Maspeth Local Development Corporation in 1982 to develop the West Maspeth In-Place Industrial Park, a 35-acre manufacturing zone that abuts Newtown Creek.

During his nearly 25 years on CB 5, Principe was an energetic and fierce advocate for his neighborhood, leading successful campaigns against a homeless shelter, a city sludge plant at the industrial park, and a Transit Authority initiative that would have sent Long Island Rail Road trains speeding through his community.

"He was a fighter and one of the nicest fighters I met," said Gary Giordano, district manager of CB 5 who joined the board with Principe in 1981. "He knew how to disagree with people and shake their hand when they left the room."

Principe was born on Dec. 5, 1909 in East New York, Brooklyn, his daughter said.

His parents were Italian immigrants who met in the United States, according to an article written by Paul Toomey for the Juniper Berry, the Juniper Park Civic Association's monthly publication.

His father, Louis Principe, was a successful builder and local civic leader, whose political connections and business sense earned him a seat in former New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia's administration.

After graduating from Cornell University's School of Civil Engineering in 1931, Principe settled in Maspeth, taking a job with his father's building company overseeing the construction of neighborhood projects, including the Hilldale Homes along 65th Place.

In 1934, he married his first wife, Frances Camardella, with whom he had two children.

Frances died in 1947, a year after he founded Principe-Danna.

In 1950, he married Virginia ??????, who died in 1996.

Meanwhile, his business flourished.

Over the next four decades, his company would provide ready-mix concrete for the World Trade Center, John F. Kennedy Airport, Javit's Center and Madison Square Garden, according to The Berry.

Principe became a recognized expert in his field, becoming an honorary member of the American Concrete Institute, a trade research company, and serving as president of the New York Concrete Industry Board, another leading trade association, the Berry reported.

When CB 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri was studying construction at New York City Technical College in the late 50s, a professor told him that Principe was the local expert on reinforced concrete.

Arcuri often used him as a technical consultant when he worked as a construction supervisor for the Turner Corp.

"Frank was very accurate, methodical," Arcuri said.

He would put those attributes to use in later years when battling development projects such as the city sludge plant proposal in the early '90s, Arcuri said.

Principe raised $50,000 to fight the project, organized a letter campaign and several demonstrations, and conducted exacting impact studies on the project, showing how it would hurt the area, Arcuri said.

That drive and passion for the neighborhood made him revered in the community.

"I tell you what he accomplished in his lifetime - it would have taken three men to accomplish." said Mike Volpe, a CB 5 volunteer. "He was a brilliant guy."

His wake will be held at Papavero Funeral Home at 72-27 Grand Avenue in Maspeth between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., and 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on May 5, 6, and 7.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made in Principe's name to Maspeth Town Hall, 53-37 72nd St., Maspeth NY 11378.

Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Updated 7:04 pm, October 10, 2011
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