CB 5 proposes renaming park after Frank Principe

By Matthew Monks

A concrete entrepreneur dubbed “Mr. Maspeth” for steering much of the neighborhood's physical and financial development, Principe established the seven-acre park on Maurice Avenue near the Long Island Expressway.

“It was Frank's idea to name it Maurice Park,” said CB 5 member Robert Holden. “He was solely responsible for that park.”

The board unanimously drafted a proposal May 12 to the city Department of Parks and Recreation, asking it to rename the park after Principe and place a plaque in his memory.

For Principe, who was 94 years old when he died, the drive to build Maurice Park marked the beginning of his long career as a civic activist. Leading the charge to fund the park in the late 1930s was the first of many missions he would spearhead over the years, first as the president of the Ridgewood Plateau Taxpayer's Civic Association, and later as the chairman of CB 5.

Before it became a park, the site was the dismal home of an inactive city pumping station in the 1930s, according to The Juniper Berry, the monthly publication of the Juniper Park Civic Association.

After becoming president of the taxpayers association, Principe raised the idea of turning the tract into a park with the late Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, who told him that local homeowners would have to pay the back taxes on the property left by the Urban Water Supply Co.

Determined to obtain the property without taxing residents, Principe convinced Moses that the city should purchase the land as a back-up water supply. He proposed that the city's Water Department sell bonds to cover the property's back taxes. While Moses agreed to the plan, final approval rested with the city Board of Estimate on which the mayor and borough presidents sat.

Principe shuttled local residents to City Hall and personally convinced former Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia to back the bond plan, according to The Berry.

When the park was completed in 1940, Principe suggested it be named Maurice Park after one of the area's distinguished families.

If the Parks Department ratifies the name-change proposal, Principe will be immortalized alongside his late wife, Virginia. After she died in 1996, a swing set in Maurice Park was dedicated in her name, according to board members.

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

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