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Queens Chronicle

Glendale activist plays a leading role

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Posted: Thursday, June 24, 2010 12:00 am

In a one-on-one competition for service to one’s community, Glendale’s Vincent Arcuri Jr. would undoubtedly run rings around most people — even those who are half his age.Now in his early 70s, he boasts leadership roles in at least a dozen community-based organizations.

Actually, “boasts” is probably not the most accurate word to describe what he does for, despite hisaccomplishments, he remains humble.

When told that he had been singled out for recognition as a person who has made outstanding contributions to his community, Arcuri responded, “I don’t think it’s necessary, but I appreciate it.Whether I was recognized or not, I would just keep doing what I’m doing.”

And what he’s doing includes serving as chairman of Community Board 5, to which he was first appointed in 1975, through which he feels he has made his greatest impact.

“A city of eight million cannot be governed by a central government,” he said. “The board helps maintain the quality of life in our community.We protect the people.We provide them with services.”

He also finds his role at the board his most rewarding.“I utilize all the skills I’ve gathered through life — planning, development, reviewing the traffic requests,” he said.

Arcuri, whose grandparents emigrated to America from southern Italy in the 1890s, moved with his family from Bedford-Stuyvesant to Glendale in 1944, to be closer to his father’s business on Wyckoff Avenue in Ridgewood.He remembered it as “like moving into the country.” While he left for several years after he married, he returned in 1975, and has called Glendale home ever since.

“It’s convenient for getting to downtown Manhattan, it’s centrally located, it’s still quiet,” Arcuri said.“We have beautiful 80-year-old trees that line the streets.You can buy anything you want in the local stores on Myrtle Avenue.”

The avenue is of particular interest to Arcuri.He recalled that back in the 1970s, when New York City verged on bankruptcy, the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District was formed, in an effort to “keep the community prosperous.We tried to entice merchants to fix up their stores.”

The organization provided decorative street lighting and benches for pedestrians and collected funds to clean the streets and litter baskets, he said.

“We help merchants and entice shoppers, and that’s what you need,” Acuri said.

While he admitted that “we need more police protection today” than was required in years gone by, headded, “It’s still fairly safe.”

In fact, the area’s security has been heightened thanks in large part to the Glendale Civilian Observation Patrol, which Arcuri co-founded in 1976.Still an active member today, Arcuri is now primarily involved in traffic details.

It all started, he recalled, “in the parking lot behind St. Pancras School.We were anticipating severe cutbacks in police manpower and a bunch of concerned citizens got together.”

Today, according to Arcuri’s estimate, 80 to 100 individuals, ranging in age from 18 to 78, participate, serving as the eyes and ears of the community.

Beyond his immediate community, as vice president of the Queens Library Foundation, Arcuri raises funds to support the library system.“We buy books and develop programs,” he said.The foundation is also involved in the creation of a newchildren’s library in Jamaica.

Fundraising seems to be one of Arcuri’s fortes;another of his beneficiaries is the Boy Scouts of America’s Queens Council.He is also involved in the group’s programming, assists with recruitment and helps to oversee scout leaders.

“We’ve seen ups and downs in recruitment,” Arcuri said.“If parents aren’t volunteering, children aren’t joining.Scouting isn’t as glitzy as being a basketball star, but it builds good strong men.Most go on to be successful people.”

Arcuri is also involved with the Queens Borough Board, the Queens Traffic Safety Council, the Kosciuszko Bridge Stakeholders Advisory Committee, the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, where he serves as vice president of the Board of Trustees, the Greater Ridgewood Historical Society and his own church, where he serves as director of facilities and as a eucharistic minister.

His “saga of volunteerism,” as he calls to it, began when he was a child, following “the example of the generation before me.If you didn’t actually serve in the military, you volunteered. Everyone was doing something as I grew up.”

Today, he finds it somewhat difficult to get volunteers to give of their time. “People are turned off by politics,” Arcuri said.“Husbands and wives are working two jobs each.They have little time.

“If they want to have a place to live, a place of purpose, they need to volunteer,” he said. “This ain’t Kansas, Dorothy.It’s no utopia.You have to get out and do things.

He believes everyone should give back. “We were given this great country,” he said.“We have to be good stewards and everyone has to do their part to make it better.”

The father of four, who is also a grandfather, seemed proud that his four grandchildren are all following in his footsteps.They are active in their sororities and work as volunteer teachers.

To what does this retired member of the New York building industry (who was honored by the Skyscraper Museum for his career in high-rise construction) owe his success as a community leader?

“You need a good wife and a good family,” he said, indicating that his wife Lois, a former cheerleading coach and Brownie leader, now “takes care of me.That keeps her busy enough.”

Welcome to the discussion.