Thursday, 04 April 2013 00:00
Applause erupted when the gavel hit the base, but Daniel Petruccio admitted it might have been only the second time he’s used it since winning the office of mayor in New Hyde Park 12 years ago.
“I can’t even give it to Bob, sadly,” he said, holding the gavel. “It’s got my name on it.” He was referring to the new mayor, Robert Lofaro.
Community leaders, activists and village mainstays were out in full force for Petruccio’s last meeting on Tuesday, March 26. He held the post for 12 years.
Petruccio announced he would not seek another term last year. He would have been the longest-tenured New Hyde Park mayor had he made a run at the post in March. Deputy Mayor Lofaro was sworn in as mayor on Monday, April 1.
Petruccio found himself front-row center at a village meeting in 1997, angry over a decision to raise property taxes over 30 percent in one year, which sparked his interest in local government. After several other meetings, he decided to work with a group of like-minded individuals to start a new political party to help address the issues in the community.
The village was nearly dissolved more than a decade ago, with at least 3,000 residents in favor of the dissolution. Petruccio was one of those residents initially, but he, along with Lofaro and other village activists, fought to save it.
“There was a time when people would say ‘I live in New Hyde Park, but not in the village,’” said Petruccio. “They would say that as a positive thing. I meet people now, and I get the sense that they wish they lived in the village as opposed to the greater part of New Hyde Park. That to me is the best compliment this board can ever be paid.”
Before Petruccio ran for mayor, Lofaro was attempting a mayoral run in 2001, but the bank he worked for advised against it. In turn, the Village Party turned to Petruccio.
“Dan got involved as a community activist, not as a politician,” Lofaro said. “Anyone that knows Dan…he’s not a politician…Dan rose above the fray of politics. He’s an elected official, a community activist and he stood up, won the election and for 12 years has served this village.”
Heaps of praise turned to heavy hearts and souls when Lofaro stepped in as an unofficial master of ceremonies for the meeting. Holding back tears, Lofaro reflected on time since passed, which he felt came in the blink of an eye.
“The way things work in world of finance sometimes get a little bit out of your hands and the Village of Brightwaters is facing that issue right now,” said Lofaro, referring to a possible 15 percent tax increase in Brightwaters, almost mirroring New Hyde Park 15 years ago.
Levittown resident Steve Dalton, a former student of Petruccio’s, said, “I know he’s worked so hard to make it a better place and improve it in every aspect. As far as I’m concerned, I am a better student, a better Catholic and a better person because of your hard work and patience.”
Trustee Lawrence Montreuil couldn’t help but liken the night to a certain TV show. “It’s looks like the last episode of Seinfeld here tonight,” he said Montreuil announced that April would be designated “Daniel Petruccio Month” in New Hyde Park.
Janet Bevers of Village Clerks Kathryn Hillmann’s office surprised Petruccio with a photo montage of his time as village leader. “We respect you, we like you and it’s been such an honor to work with you,” she said.
“There are very divergent opinions sitting at this table. Dan has a tremendous ability to get the group to agree and more often than not, this board is voting unanimously mostly, in my opinion, because of his leadership and the way he melds everyone and those opinions together,” Trustee Donald Barbieri said. “Bob’s ready, but he’s got shoes to fill.”
Petruccio called Tuesday night meetings “productive” but received “a few kicks under the table from my friend (trustee) Rich Coppola, to cut someone off from talking a bit,” he said jokingly.
“I thank Dan for his years of service,” Coppola said. “It was great working alongside of Dan. He was a great mayor; levelheaded. He kept us all in line. He did a great job.”