Joel Miele Sr., who served as chairman of Community Board 10 for 11 years and later was commissioner of the Department of Buildings and the Department of Environmental Protection under Mayor Giuliani, passed away Monday at the age of 78.
Miele, a resident of Old Howard Beach, was also a well-known engineer in private practice with a firm on Furmanville Avenue in Middle Village. His partner in that firm was Benjamin Leonardi, who served as chairman of Community Board 9 in the 1990s.
Born on May 28, 1934, Miele was a graduate of the Polytechnic Institute of NYU. In 1957, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he served in the Civil Engineer Corps. His naval experience included three years on active duty and 29 years on inactive duty. He served two years as commander and commodore of the 7th Naval Construction Regiment, which comprised over 2,600 officers and men located throughout the Northeastern United States and retired in 1988 at the rank of captain.
Miele became chairman of Community Board 10 in 1979 and served until 1990 when he was named a member of the New York City Planning Commission. In 1994, Giuliani appointed Miele commissioner of the DOB, and he was shifted to the DEP in 1996. Later, Miele was appointed to serve on the Board of Standards and Appeals until retiring in 2005 and returning to private practice with his son, Joel Jr., and Leonardi.
"I’ve known Joel since childhood as a neighbor and friend and later as a colleague in community service,” said Betty Braton, current chairwoman of CB 10, who succeeded Miele in 1990.“Joel Miele's passing is a great loss for the borough of Queens; he, as well as his broad expertise on a myriad of topics, will be missed by us all.”
Braton announced that Miele was seriously ill at last Thursday’s CB 10 meeting.
Leonardi said he met Miele right out of school when he was looking for a job as an architect. He said Miele was “like a second father” and helped mold his character and his career.
“He took me under his wing, and little by little I moved up to be his partner,” Leonardi said. “I probably would not be in this field or have the character I have today if it hadn’t been for him.”
State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said he had known Miele since he was a teenager because the working relationship between Miele and Addabbo’s father, former Rep. Joe Addabbo Sr. Miele was the person Addabbo Jr. looked to when he decided to enter a career in public service.
“As I started to get active in civic duty and public service, Joel was the model I looked to,” he said. “I’m grateful to have known Joel and always admired his years of community involvement and knowledge of how to get government services for the people. I will miss him."
Former state Sen. Serphin Maltese, Addabbo’s predecessor, said he knew Miele both in his role as chairman of CB 10 and during his service in the Giuliani administration.
“He was a very methodical and efficient guy,” Maltese remembered. “He was part of the old guard. He was a gentleman and his word was his bond.”
Miele’s son, Joel Miele Jr., said his father’s civic duties mirrored the type of family man he was outside of public life.
“He had a can-do attitude. Anything that was put in front of him, made no difference what it was, he could get it done,” Miele Jr. said. “He did that family-wise and community-wise. Anybody in the family that had ever needed anything, he would get it done. If he couldn’t, he would find someone who could.”
Miele added that the biggest lesson his father taught him was “to always give back,” a sentiment also echoed by Leonardi.
Mitch Udowitch, treasurer of the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department, worked with Miele at the DEP and said he would remember him simply as “good people.”
“He was a good man, very helpful, very kind,” Udowitch said. “He will be missed.
Miele is survived by his wife Josephine, his three children, Joel Jr., Vita and Janet, and seven grandchildren.
Services were to be held at Quinn Fogarty Funeral Home at 162-14 Sanford Ave. in Flushing on Wednesday and Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.