Written by Dave Gil de Rubio Friday, 05 April 2013 00:00
You can blame a hole in the floor of the Parkville Library back in the early 1990s for putting longtime New Hyde Park resident Marietta DiCamillo on the road to civic activism. At the time, she was pulling serious hours wearing a number of hats as the office manager/financial controller/head of IT and HR at the Independent Federation of Flight Attendants (IFFA). But given the pride she had (and continues to have) in her community, this was one issue DiCamillo wasn’t going to let slide.
“It all started with a hole in the floor of the Parkville Library, which is one of the branches operated by the Great Neck Library, and the deplorable state that the library was in,” DiCamillo recalled while seated at her dining room table. “The feeling that although I’m a full-fledged taxpayer in the district but not being provided the services that are being provided further north, the community, [meaning] Marianna and I, took a very active role, as community representatives with the Great Neck Library and we started to attend all the meetings.”
Fast forward two decades plus later and DiCamillo not only has a job as the CFO of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), but she and her sister Marianna Wohlgemuth, (affectionately known as the “M&M sisters”), have continued to be the conscience of New Hyde Park, particularly when it comes to all things civic. DiCamillo has played a major role in a number of organizations including past and current stints as president of the Great Neck Library Board of Trustees, a role as the senior vice president of the Ladies Auxiliary VFW Post 5253 (where her sister serves as treasurer), co-chair of the Town of North Hempstead New Hyde Park Advisory Board and membership in the Cellini Lodge #2206. Regardless of how much she has on her plate, the Jackson Heights native is unwavering in her commitments, regardless of how hairy her schedule can get.
“I’ve gotten really, really good at managing my time. Unfortunately, when I see something is a time waster, you’ve got to stop it and turn the direction over to a productive outcome,” she explained. “I have to decide if I want to rerun [as president of the Great Neck Library board of trustees]. It is a lot of work, a big commitment and I do take it seriously. Even though I’m not paid or compensated, I take it as seriously as I would my own job that I am compensated for. I’m running for a political position in a state office and [it] should not be taken lightly. So I do put a lot of time into it and get somewhere between 40 to 50 emails on a daily basis that involve the library, depending on what’s going on. But it’s really good.”
A Queens College alum, DiCamillo originally was interested in becoming an industrial psychologist, but her strength in math, and a brief professional interlude learning how to be a bookkeeper at her sister’s Manhattan-based job took her down a different path. It is one that’s taken her to a high-ranking role in the MLBPA, but also one that’s allowed DiCamillo and her sister to take on a number of large community issues—and win. Early in their civic lives, the siblings took on the Jamaica Water Supply Company by forming the Water Bill Watchdogs, a grassroots organization created to fight a utility they felt was excessively charging its customers.
“Our group was formed from 11 communities that were looking to reduce the water rates. I got a water bill that was $550 for three months,” she pointed out. “Jamaica Water was ripping us off. They had changed the meters, raised the rates and put a surcharge on our bills because it was the summer and the combination of those things skyrocketed the bills to the point where we weren’t drinking champagne, we were drinking water. Families that had three and four children were having bills that were $1100 for three months.”
With both sisters a constant presence at any water utility-related meetings, the gadflies wound up spearheading the creation of the Water Authority of Western Nassau County, a nonprofit corporate governmental agency constituting a public benefit corporation that was organized and exists under and by virtue of the laws of the State of New York. Acquisition by condemnation of allowed this new water authority to gain control of the Nassau County portion of the water supply and distribution system previously owned by the Jamaica Water Supply Company, with water service operations starting on May 29, 1996.
It is this kind of involvement with community-related activities that found the Honorable Judi Bosworth tapping the duo to be named Trailblazers for the 10th Legislative District. And while she’s appreciative of the accolades, the New Hyde Park resident of 32 years is more consumed with taking care of the community that she so deeply cares for.
“I love New Hyde Park, my community and my neighbors,” she gushed. “The proximity to Manhattan, the grocery stores that are around here and the ease of getting around. And also the composition of people that’s just like a little New York City. It’s terrific. Plus, you have the benefit of the Great Neck School District and the library. How much better can you get than that?”
Look for a feature on Marianna Wohlgemuth, the other half of the “M&M Sisters,” to appear in an upcoming issue of the New Hyde Park Illustrated.