2011-07-15 / Community

Russo To Be Honored With Street Renaming


In a file photo, Mario Russo, left, receives an award from the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation. The award is a stunning stained glass work created by stained glass master Patrick Clark, who presents it to Russo. In a file photo, Mario Russo, left, receives an award from the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation. The award is a stunning stained glass work created by stained glass master Patrick Clark, who presents it to Russo. By Miriam Rosenberg

He was known to many as Mr. Rockaway and for more than 30 years he dedicated himself to the betterment of the peninsula. On July 19, Amstel Boulevard, which runs from Beach 71 Street to Beach 75 Street, will become known as Mario P. Russo Boulevard.

“Nobody in this community is more deserving of this honor than Mario,” said Jonathan Gaska, the district manager for Community Board 14. “He was a [community] board member for over 30 years, head of Arverne Civic Association, started Dancing Under the Stars, and was responsible for many of the tree plantings in Rockaway. He was truly a selfless man in making Rockaway a better place.”

While Russo was born in Jersey City, his parents maintained a summer home in Arverne. It was there the young Mario had his first Rockaway experiences. According to the biography entered into the City Council record, Russo worked for Leo Miele delivering ice, and at other times at the grocery Mondello.

It was also in Rockaway that he met the former Diana Macaluso. On November 30, 1941 they were married at St. Rose of Lima Church. The marriage produced two sons. The older son, Stephen, was born while Russo was serving in the Coast Guard for three years after World War II broke out. The younger, George, was born after Russo was discharged.

Russo’s obituary that ran in the May 25, 2002 issue of The Wave said, “Mario Russo, the peninsula’s premier dancer and a man affectionately known as ‘Mr. Rockaway,’ died on May 18, 2002. He was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, and was a 61 year resident of the Rockaway community. Mario worshipped at St. Rose of Lima Church and worked as a carpenter along with his twin brother, Rocco. The two were long-time members of Local 45, AFL-CIO. He was a member of the United States Coast Guard during World War II, and also a 30-year member of Community Board 14. Recognized as a civic leader,

Russo was also passionate about the environment. The Wave’s May 25, 2002 Beachcomber column remembered Russo by saying, “He was always dropping into The Wave to talk about environmental issues around the bay that he loved.”

In January 2002, the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce presented Russo with its Lifetime Achievement Award. t. A Wave article prior to the award presentation said, “Russo has spearheaded the annual Rockaway Clean-up Fix Up campaign and participated in many other efforts to make Rockaway clean and beautiful. For the past 35 years, Russo has been part of the Earth Day and the Arbor Day programs. Through his efforts, many new trees have been planted here in the Rockaways.”

The quest to honor Russo with a street renaming started in September 2003. It was then that Community Board 14 first took up the issue, followed by Councilman James Sanders Jr.’s official nomination to the City Council. The Council’s Committee on Parks and Recreation first considered the street renaming on September 25 of that year. Mayor Bloomberg signed Local Law 565, which made the renaming of a street in Russo’s honor.official on October 20, 2003. After almost eight years the actual name change will finally happen. According to the Department of Transportation the new street signs will be put up shortly before the ceremony. Scheduling the ceremony is the job of the councilmember who put in the nomination street renaming. The time lag between the approval of the bill and the actual installation of the signs and the accompanying ceremony was explained by Sanders’ chief-of-staff Donovan Richards.

“We could have done it without the family there, but that’s not how we do things,” said Richards, who added that because of health considerations not all members of the family would have been able to come to an earlier ceremony. “We tried again this summer and got the OK from the son.”

The ceremony will take place at Beach 72 Street and Amstel Boulevard on July 19 at 10 a.m. Russo lived close by at Beach 71 Street and Amstel Boulevard. Russo’s wife and one of his sons still live in the area.

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