Maspeth honors Mary Anne Verbil Walter with street co-naming

By Stephanie Meditz

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The community joined friends and family of Mary Anne Verbil Walter to commemorate the street co-naming in her honor.

The community took to the corner of 58th Avenue and Brown Place to honor Maspeth’s own Mary Anne Verbil Walter, a beloved teacher, Girl Scout troop leader and avid volunteer.

Named in her honor right beside the house she called home, “Mary Anne Verbil Walter Way” symbolizes her impact and legacy on the neighborhood — as did the large crowd that gathered to celebrate her street co-naming.

Verbil Walter taught at various schools in Queens and Brooklyn — Blessed Sacrament in Jackson Heights, St. Stanislaus Kostka in Greenpoint and P.S. 89 in Elmhurst. 

She found creative ways to make learning fun for her students, such as collecting paper crowns from Burger King for the Epiphany procession and dressing up as Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus during Reading Week. 

She was recognized by the United Federation of Teachers for her dedication to the profession. 

Her generous heart and dedication to service extended well past the classroom. She took part in multiple committees, including the annual Giving Tree that provides food and gifts for families in need at Christmastime, Thanksgiving food drives and several after-school programs. 

Her daughter, Rachel Walter Riebling, recalled that one year, her mother “worked her magic” and brought Christmas to a student whose father lost his job days before. 

“Everyone else’s committee would have four people. She would have 96, because everyone wanted to be with her,” Maegan Walter-Garvey said of her mother. “She just had a passion for teaching and she went above and beyond.” 

She remembered that her mother would always leave the house with wet hair because she was constantly on the move to plan and organize events. 

Although Verbil Walter was never a Girl Scout herself, she became a troop leader as a teenager so that her younger sisters would have a troop. 

The pastor from the Maspeth Methodist Church asked her to help run the troop temporarily after the former leader quit. 

She ultimately led Girl Scout Troop 4734 for 30 years and touched the lives of all the children she met. The Girl Scouts she led went on to register their own daughters in the same troop. 

“All these people have been reaching out to me lately just remembering her taking them to camp for the first time,” Walter-Garvey said. “She treated everybody’s child like her own and did everything she could to make every experience special.” 

Walter-Garvey recalled that her mother helped her run Girl Scout troop meetings months before she died. 

Verbil Walter’s four daughters — Maegan Walter-Garvey, Sarah Walter, Rachel Walter-Riebling and Hannah LeFante — are all still involved with the Girl Scouts even though they live in different states. 

Verbil Walter’s daughters, Sarah Walter, Hannah LeFante, Maegan Walter-Garvey and Rachel Walter Riebling recited the Girl Scout promise.

At the street co-naming, they recited the Girl Scout promise as an homage to Verbil Walter’s life of service to both her community and country. 

She and her Girl Scout troop placed flags on veterans’ graves before Memorial Day, and she became the Girl Scout representative in the United Veterans and Fraternal organization of Maspeth. 

Verbil Walter was also in charge of the Veterans’ Day essay contest held in conjunction with the Memorial Day parade. 

“She would get so excited when the essays would come in, and you would see the pride on her face as the next generation of patriots stood before her,” Sarah Walter said. 

“Her favorite part of that was meeting the kids…she loved actually getting to talk to the kids about their essays,” Walter-Garvey said. “She was the queen of personal relationships.” 

Verbil Walter was a lifelong advocate for her community. In her freshman year of high school, she started the Mission Club, which raised money for both UNICEF and the school. 

“Mom went out of her way to make sure that everyone was included, felt welcome and felt special,” Walter-Garvey said. “She befriended everyone.” 

Walter-Garvey recalled the time her mother invited two Duane Reade employees who were foreign exchange students to her home for Thanksgiving. 

In addition to her community service and humanitarian efforts, Verbil Walter was a devoted wife and mother. 

“We are the lucky ones. We were blessed to have this beautiful woman as our mother,” Walter Riebling said. “She was always there, no matter what. Swim meets, recitals, games, presentations, spelling and math bees, Mom was there. When you had a bad day at school or work, Mom was there. When you needed to vent, Mom was there. She was truly the most selfless person.”

Her four daughters took turns with the mic, sharing a heartwarming speech with the crowd.

Since Walter-Garvey followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a teacher, the two would go shopping for classroom supplies together. 

She joked that, if her mother saw her picture on light posts in Maspeth, she would have ripped them down and insisted that she did not need recognition. 

She also followed her mother and father’s example of what a marriage should look like. 

“We have always professed that the husband and wife team of Mary Anne and Mike was the best that Maspeth has ever produced,” Walter Riebling said, quoting Ken and Barbara Rudzewick. “To use a baseball analogy, Mary Anne was the leadoff and Mike was the cleanup hitter.” 

Maureen Tompkins, a lifelong friend of Verbil Walter, came up with the idea of a street co-naming in her honor. 

“The day of Mary Anne’s funeral…I listened to this eulogy and I said, ‘I know people that know Mary Anne will never forget her, but what about the rest of the community? We have to do more. It can’t end here,’” she said. 

Also in attendance was Mary Ann Todzia, who recalled that Verbil Walter would constantly reach out to her regarding community efforts, such as sending Christmas cards to veterans. 

“Whatever we were doing, she was there. I knew I could count on her. I knew I could ask her for advice,” she said. “She’s probably sitting on a fluffy cloud with her group of veterans doing something good.” 

The street co-naming was presented by Councilman Robert Holden, who hopes the community will be inspired by Verbil Walter’s life of service. 

The family was presented with a City Proclamation and a DOT street sign identical to the one that hangs on the corner of 58th Ave and Brown Pl.

“She only wanted to bring people together, whether that was in her home, school, church, community of Maspeth, The American Legion or Girl Scouts,” Hannah LeFante said. “She always showed us how family is not always what you are born into. She made every person feel important, special and loved.”

Paying homage to local hero with street co-naming

“Joseph Magnus Way” honors his humanitarian spirit

By Stephanie Meditz

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On Saturday, the corner of 58th Avenue and 75th Street in Middle Village was co-named to honor a beloved community member, Joseph Magnus.

Middle Village residents joined the friends and family of Magnus to unveil a new street sign that reads “Joseph Magnus Way.”

Born in Slovakia in 1931, Magnus spent his childhood in the thick of the Second World War.

After he and his family escaped capture by the Nazis, he endured several wounds under the care of his fellow survivors and learned the importance of community service firsthand.

He learned the English language by working as an elevator operator, took computer classes at New York University, mentored community members and co-founded the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

On September 11, 2001, Magnus and the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps were among the first volunteers at the World Trade Center, where they spent days helping New Yorkers in a time of citywide need.

Michael Michel, president of Christ the King Regional High School, was Magnus’s mentee as a volunteer of the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

“I volunteered and I started on Wednesday nights with Joe Magnus as a trainee,” he said. “He put me under his wing, broke my chops…but he was a driven force.”

After five months volunteering with the corps, Michel ran for first officer under Magnus’s stern instruction.

Six months later, Magnus similarly convinced Michel to run for president of the corps.

Michel testified that Magnus would call former NYS Senator Serf Maltese every day to solicit funding for the corps.

Maltese, who funded several ambulance corps during his 20 years in office, likened Magnus to a drill sergeant in his fundraising efforts.

He said that Magnus not only helped the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps continue, but he also made sure it was the best-funded ambulance corps in the state.

Magnus was a major force behind the city’s memorandum of understanding to fund all ambulance corps in New York City.

“Nobody hounded me like Joe Magnus,” Maltese said. “My entire staff knew, whether it was Albany or Queens, when Joe was on the phone.”

City Councilman Robert Holden, who presented the co-naming, had similar encounters with Magnus since they met in the late ‘80s.

“He was always challenging me,” he said. “And this is probably why I’m standing here, it’s because of Joe Magnus. He urged me to run.”

Through his many phone calls to Holden’s office, Magnus inspired Holden’s funding of the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

“He was an amazing person. You couldn’t say no to Joe,” Holden said. “Joe would say what was on his mind and he didn’t have a filter.”

Holden also testified to Magnus’ regular attendance at parades and other community events, even in his old age.

“Joe had a heart of gold. He would help anyone,” he said. “He would help a lot of people and he didn’t brag about that part…but he was so dedicated to community.”

Senator Joe Addabbo, who got to know Magnus when he was elected in 2009, spoke of Magnus’s tough, no-nonsense exterior along with his perseverance, advocacy and community service.

“Even though he was not born in America, you’d be hard pressed to find someone more American,” he said.

Magnus’s daughter, Tanya, described her father as having a “rough exterior, but a heart of gold” in an article.

Magnus’s daughter, Tanya Magnus-Hoos, spoke of her father’s commitment to the American ideal of building a better life in this country.

“Joe Magnus was a capitalist and a patriot,” she said. “Every time something good happened in my life, like a promotion or a raise, he would be my first call. He’d get on the phone and say to me, ‘That’s great. Good country, huh? Let’s go on Grand Avenue and sing God Bless America.’”

“And I miss those moments,” she continued. “But what I also look forward to with hope and anticipation is that someday, when something good happens in [my children’s] lives and they call me, I can tell them, ‘That’s great. Good country. Let’s go sing God Bless America on Joe Magnus Way.’”

Magnus was notorious for sounding the ambulance’s loud, unmistakable horn at all hours of the night.

At the street co-naming, Joseph Campisi from the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps sounded the horn in his honor.

Phil ‘Scooter’ Rizzuto gets his street sign

Longtime Yankees player, broadcaster gets childhood street corner named after him

Assemblywoman Rajkumar and Councilman Robert Holden present the street sign to the family of the late Phil Rizzuto.

The legacy of Phil Rizzuto, the Hall of Fame major league baseball player and broadcaster whose ball-playing roots began in Glendale, will forever live on at his childhood street corner which was recently co-named after him.

Nicknamed “Scooter” for his strides and speed on the base paths, the 5-foot-6 shortstop would play 13 seasons with the New York Yankees in the ‘40s and ‘50s, before becoming the voice of the team as a broadcaster for 40 years.

Family and friends joined together at the intersection of 64th Street and 78th Avenue in front of the house Rizzuto grew up in, reminiscing on the life and memories of the man whose famous “Holy Cow!” catchphrase would be shouted over the airwaves for decades.

“He was a wonderful dad,” his daughter, Penny Rizzuto-Yetto, said. “I am overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and the history people have. A lot of work went into this and I am incredibly grateful.”

The street co-naming was brought to fruition by the Newtown Historical Society, New York City Councilman Robert Holden and the Liberty Park Homeowners Association.

The idea was first brought to Holden’s attention last year. It was then up to Christina Wilkinson, president of the Newtown Historical Society, to collect the required petitions for the street co-naming to be officially recognized.

An old seat from the original Yankee Stadium was purchased by the Councilman in the ‘80s at a yard sale in Glendale, he said. Speaking next to the empty seat on display in front of a crowd of over 75 people, Holden envisioned the spirit of Rizzuto joining the joyous event in front of his childhood home.

Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar addresses the crowd at the street co-naming of “Phil ‘Scooter’ Rizzuto Corner”.

“Phil was one of the few Yankees that I really loved,” Holden, a self-admitted Dodger fan, said. “He was an inspiration as an announcer. What I loved about him is he made it really personal and he made it very warm hearted. He was just a great guy and the family knows that.”

Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar sported a red Yankees hat in support of the local Queens boy who attended Richmond Hill High School growing up. She praised his heroism, citing the stint in Rizzuto’s career, from 1943 to 1945, when he served in the Navy during World War II.

“Phil Rizzuto was a dynamite in baseball, both as a player and as we all know, a broadcaster,” said Rajkumar. “But he’s more than that, he’s a model New Yorker and an outstanding citizen. This is a man who stopped his Hall of Fame baseball career to put his life on the line for our country in World War II.”

Penny Rizzuto-Yetto, daughter of the late Phil Rizzuto, poses with a cannoli made for the event.

The block party featured a number of musical pieces performed by saxophonist Carl Bartlett, Jr., as well as “Scooter Pies” made by Rolo’s restaurant in Ridgewood, and Huckleberry soda and candy provided by the Newtown Historical Society. Yankee hats were also donated by the baseball team for the event.

Memories were shared by longtime friends of the family, including former Yankees public relations director Marty Appel, and Ray Negron, a special consultant to the Yankees.

“Those of us who fell in love with baseball in the 50’s, we live through those baseball cards,” Appel said. “I still picture in my head, his 1956 Topps card was just a magnificent, beautiful card.”

Negron added that in his nearly half-century with the baseball club, Rizzuto was one of the top three nicest guys he’s met through the sport.

“When Billy Martin got fired in 1978 — and he didn’t quit, he got fired — who sat in his room while Billy cried? Phil Rizzuto.”

Peter Magnani Way installed on 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights

Urban planner honored with street co-naming in Jackson Heights avenue he helped beautify

By Juan Arturo Trillo

Named after former Deputy Queens Borough President, “Peter Magnani Way” now stands tall on 81st St and 34th Avenue.

Magnani, who also served as an urban planner and architect, was honored with a street co-naming in his home of Jackson Heights on the morning of Saturday, June 18, 2022.

At 82 years old, Peter passed away on June 23rd, 2021. The street naming ceremony was attended by Peter’s family, friends, colleagues, and teammates.

A variety of speeches by Peter’s friends and community leaders preceded the unveiling of Peter Magnani Way.

The installation of Peter Magnani Way was spearheaded by former Councilman Danny Dromm along with former judge and community leader Rudy Greco.

“We’re here to honor Peter, but I feel honored to have been numbered among Peter’s friends,” Greco said.

Dromm anticipates that students will see Magnani’s name on the street and will be pushed to learn more about his impact.

Councilman Shekar Krishnan spoke of Magnani’s many contributions to Queens, including the Flushing Meadows Corona Park swimming pool/ice rink, Queens Hall of Science, and conversion of the Towers Co-Op in Jackson Heights.

He propelled a variety of projects, including the Flushing Meadows Corona Park swimming pool/ice rink, Queens Hall of Science, and conversion of Jackson Heights’s Towers Co-Op.

Magnani drove the installation and development of new libraries in Long Island City, Glen Oaks, Elmhurst, Far Rockaway, and Hunters Point.

Magnani helped to protect working class communities from developments which would displace tenants from their homes and communities, Krishnan added.

Krishnan said that Magnani understood how people’s environments affect their daily lives.

“His life, his legacy, has not just literally and physically changed the landscape of Jackson Heights and Queens, but it has left its mark on urban planning, on public space, and on how we think about our communities and our city for generations to come,” Krishnan said.

One of Magnani’s largest projects was the median on 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights.

The median now lies in the center of the new 34th Avenue Open Street, where the street is closed to cars from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Krishnan attributed much of its success to Magnani’s median.

Borough President Donovan Richards added that open streets give people an opportunity to build community, learn about each other, and celebrate the borough’s greatest strength: its diversity.

In addition to other initiatives, Magnani’s legacy was cemented through the variety of roles he served within the Queens and New York City communities.

Magnani worked at both the Bronx and Queens Departments of City Planning. He was then appointed as Deputy Borough President under the then-Borough president Claire Shulman. Finally, he became the Director of Capital Program Management for the Queens Borough Public Library.

Former Councilman Barry Grodenchik remembered Magnani as a “voice for his community” in his role as Deputy Borough President.

Former Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer added that Magnani was the “calm in the center of the storm” in his work.

Robert Esnard, former Deputy Mayor under Ed Koch, described Magnani’s career route to his government roles as unique. Esnard attended the City College of New York with Magnani where they played baseball together, and their friendship continued into their later years.

Esnard said that one of Peter’s final dreams was to play half-court basketball with his grandsons.

“[Peter] lived his life with grace, with kindness, and with a concern for his fellow man,” concluded Esnard.

Krishnan, whose district encompasses Jackson Heights, recalled Magnani’s long lasting legacy that will be remembered for generations to come.

“We lead the way as a neighborhood standing on the shoulder of Peter, pushing his work and legacy forward,” Krishnan added. “In changing permanently, a small piece of the landscape of New York City, we are recognizing the incredibly large impact that Peter’s life and work had.”


Rochdale pays tribute to Alex Pauline

Neighborhood patriarch honored with street co-naming celebration southeast Queens

Alex Pauline, considered a father figure by many in southeast Queens, will forever be memorialized at the corner of 173rd Street and 134th Road, where new signage reads “Alex Pauline Road”.

The unveiling of “Alex Pauline Road” at the intersection of 173rd Street and 134th Road in Rochdale.

The life of Pauline, who died in November 2019, was celebrated just around the corner from where he called home in Rochdale Village, having grown up in “Circle 4” and playing basketball in South Rochdale Playground.

Remembered as a husband, father, coach, mentor and a teacher, Pauline’s family and friends paid homage to the man whose tough love and guidance helped raise a neighborhood.

“When God gives you a calling, you have to follow it,” his wife, Dolores Joseph-Pauline, said at the street co-naming event on Saturday, June 18. “I knew I had to share him with the world.”

Also known as “Coach Al,” Pauline gave back to his community in the form of teaching, working as a custodian and also serving as a basketball coach at PS80Q, his former elementary school.

A graduate of Springfield Gardens High School, he would find his love for basketball and coaching before meeting his wife at their alma mater York College.

On the day before Father’s Day, his son, Aleek, helped unveil the new sign before hosting a free basketball clinic at South Rochdale Playground in his father’s honor.

“Me and my family are truly blessed to have had Alex Joseph-Pauline as our king,” Aleek said.

The father of three also worked as a direct care counselor for the mentally challenged on the weekends, when he wasn’t busy being a public school teacher and a basketball coach during the week.

In 1988, he founded “Drug Free That’s Me,” a nonprofit that used basketball as a way to teach the youth about the negative effects of alcohol and drug use, as well as countless other life lessons taught along the way.

Friends and neighborhood residents gather to celebrate the life of Alex Pauline.

The nonprofit had participants including Shaheen Holloway, the head coach of Seton Hall University, and former NBA player Lamar Odom. Pauline also helped coach professional athletes including WNBA player Tina Charles, NBA players Danny Green, Kenny Patterson, Sundiata Gaines, and future NFL pro Kevin Ogletree.

Aleek would also be coached to a basketball career at Norfolk State University, as well as a career overseas in Europe.

In the program’s basketball tournaments, Pauline would use halftime to preach and teach about the dangers of drug abuse and crime, while offering an alternative from those very same vices.

Brian Corbett, a Rochdale native, was on hand to celebrate the life of Pauline, who he says served as a role model for himself and others while growing up in southeast Queens.

“He taught us about responsibilities and how we were looked at at the time by police as young Black cats and how to conduct ourselves,” Corbett recalled. “He kept a swear jar for when we were playing basketball. If you said a cuss, you would add to the collection and he would use it to buy shirts. He was an exemplary human being.”

Led by a performance by the Elite Marching Band of Queens, the street co-naming ceremony included remarks from Council Speaker and Rochdale native Adrienne Adams.

“What makes this community so special is the everyday people who live here and care so deeply about their neighbors, especially our seniors and our young people,” Adams said. “Rochdale village residents look out for one another and support each other in every way they can.”

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams gives the street sign to the family of the late Alex Pauline.

She continued, “One such unsung hero was Alex Pauline, who grew up in circle four and basically called Rochdale Village Hall all of his life. He served as a positive role model and father figure for children in the neighborhood and his students at PS 80.”

State Senator Leroy Comrie urged the community to “pay it forward,” in honor of Pauline.

“We have other young people in our community that need your guiding hand, that need to see you,” Comrie said. “They see your actions and they see your deeds already. Just pay it forward to them to let them know that they’re loved because we need to continue to pay it forward and nurture our young people, and to continue to provide opportunities in the spirit of Alex Pauline.”

A celebratory walk to the nearby basketball courts along the newly co-named street served as a walk down memory lane for family members and friends of Pauline.

“On a daily basis, he and I couldn’t walk from our building to the store or to our car, without him running into a young person, a parent or a colleague,” said Pauline’s wife, Dolores. “I’m glad they chose this time to recognize him.”


Remembering Woodside’s Daniel Andrews

Councilwoman Julie Won and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards honored the late Queens stalwart Dan Andrews with a street co-naming ceremony last Saturday, June 4, near his former family home in Woodside.

The intersection of 54th Street and 32nd Avenue will forever be known as Daniel Andrews Way.

The event was attended by over 100 people who came to celebrate a man so near and dear to the Woodside community. Friends, family, representatives of the local FDNY firehouse, as well as former Councilmember Karen Koslowitz, Juliet Papa of 1010WINS, Dave Seifman of the New York Post and Alexandra Rosa, longtime Borough President representative and Chief of Staff under two former Borough Presidents.

Born and raised in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, Andrews graduated from St. John’s University in 1970 and began his career in the new business as a photo caption writer at United Press International. He went on to become UPI’s Bureau Chief in New York’s City Hall, joining other members of the Room 9 press corps in covering then-Mayor Ed Koch and the rest of City government.

After leaving UPI, Andrews went on to serve for 23 years as press secretary to Queens Borough President’s Claire Shulman and Helen Marshall. Upon his retirement in 2013, the New York Daily news noted that Andrews, “may well be the longest serving government spokesperson in the city.”

He eventually married his wife, Deirdre, and raised two children in their loving Woodside home, before moving to Bronxville, NY. Dan passed away on October 12, 2020 at the age of 72.

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