Bayside Historical Society celebrates 60 years as longest serving president steps down

Anthony Koutsouradis, the newly elected president of Bayside Historical Society, thanked former president Paul DiBendetto for his contributions.
Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

As the Bayside Historical Society celebrated 60 years inside Fort Totten Castle, attendees witnessed changes in leadership during the annual membership meeting held earlier this month. 

On the evening of Wednesday, Mar. 20, dozens of members and nonmembers gathered for the annual meeting that coincides with a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. However, before the musical and dance performances kicked off in celebration of Irish heritage just days after St. Paddy’s Day, an election of officers and trustees was held. 

Paul DiBenedetto, who served as the BHS president for the past 12 years, stepped down to return to his former role as Vice President of Buildings. It marked the longest tenure of any president since the founding of the BHS in 1964. He has been a part of the organization since 2006 in various capacities. 

“Even though you’re president, you’re still a volunteer,” said DiBenedetto in his heartfelt remarks. “Why do we give up countless unpaid hours of our time? I would say we all do it in service of something greater than ourselves.”

After a motion to bring in the new members and trustees was passed, new and old leaders took an oath. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

DiBenedetto credited Carol Marion, who served as president for eight years prior to DiBenedetto, as an inspiration. She has been a member of BHS since 1967, just a handful of years after its founding. 

In his remarks, DiBenedetto shared the accomplishments he was proud to oversee during his time leading the historic society. 

He oversaw two buildings obtain landmark designation – The Ahles House built by the Bell family that Bell Boulevard is named after and Hawthorne Court Apartments on 216th Street—thereby protecting them in perpetuity. And this spring, he plans to make another push to landmark additional buildings. 

DiBenedetto also joked that he survived “one organized internal coup to overthrow the board of BHS and dissolve it, and rename the institution. Crazy, isn’t it? Well, we beat that back.”

Outside of his role at BHS, DiBenedetto also serves as chairperson of Community Board 11, which represents Bayside, Douglaston and East Flushing among other northeast Queens neighborhoods. There he also dedicated time to landmarking efforts by reforming its Landmarks Committee and appointing a committee chairperson. 

“’I’m proud of my time here as president, and I couldn’t have done any of these things without the help of my colleagues on the board,” DiBenedetto said before being handed a proclamation and wooden gavel as a farewell token of appreciation from his fellow officers. 

Stepping into the role of president is Anthony Koutsouradis, who previously served as treasurer. During his remarks, he took the time to acknowledge the efforts of DiBenedetto during his time. 

“I would say that he’s put in probably thousands of hours of community service over the course of that time,” said Koutsouradis. “He’s [Paul] part of the reason I’m here.”

Koutsouradis served as president of the Northwest Bayside Civic Association for eight years, as well as chairperson of Community Board 11 for another eight years. During that time he got involved in the work of BHS. 

“I promise to do the best I can. I love this organization and I hope everybody here can volunteer and help us,” said Koutsouradis. “All good people would be happy to be part of this organization.”

Three new trustees, as well as those changing ranks as officers, took an oath to serve the interests of the Bayside Historical Society to the best of their abilities. 

During the annual meeting, the leadership also took the time to recognize volunteers who do not have a title at BHS, but nonetheless dedicate their time and energy to the various events and educational programs the center runs. 

The night wrapped up with several dance performance by Ciara Greene School of Irish Step Dancing and a musical performance by Ken Curtin as part of the society’s Passport Concert Series, funded by a Cultural Immigrant Initiative grant from the city.