Pizza D’Amore on Mill Avenue was filled to the brim with 70 community members and elected officials on June 22nd at the Mill Island Civic Association’s end of season party.
While the turnout is always good for the party, this time was special for many of the attendees. That’s because they were celebrating the many contributions and achievements of longtime President Sol Needle, as he formally announced his retirement from the position.
“He was really helpful to the community and so the community’s gonna’ miss him,” A. Sinesi, now the president of the civic but formerly the first vice president, said in an interview. “Luckily, he’s still with us, and I made him promise that he’d still be involved with the civic.”
Needle was president of Mill Island Civic for 26 years, having first taken over the role in 1997. He and his late wife Maxine joined the organization in 1980, just three years after moving to the neighborhood.
His community involvement didn’t stop there. Needle was a member of Community Board 18 (CB18) for 45 years, 20 of which he served as chairperson. He also was on the local school board for 10 years, as the president for five. Additionally, he was a member of Canarsie’s Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club.
The Pizza D’Amore goodbye party for Needle was attended by CB 18 District Manager Sue Ann Partnow, Assemblywoman Jaime Williams, Councilwoman Mercedes Narcisse and local police officers, among many others. Representatives from the offices of Mayor Eric Adams and Attorney General Letitia James also came out to show support. State Senator Kevin Parker, who now represents the area because of redistricting, also attended, along with the community’s former state senator, Roxanne Persaud. Governor Kathy Hochul sent a signed proclamation for Needle. Even U.S. President Joseph Biden’s office responded to the invitation and politely declined.
Sinesi and new co-First Vice President Cheryl Markowitz, formerly the recording secretary, both said that the turnout was a testament to Needle’s dedication to the community.
Now that the two of them have new roles, they said they’ll have to work to fill the void left by Needle.
“I am totally honored to have the position of vice president,” Markowitz said in an interview. “It went over and beyond what I ever expected. You know, I just go and do whatever is necessary and to have them give me that honor was beyond my greatest expectations.”
The main issues they want to work on in this new era of the association are safety, quality of life concerns and effectively communicating with the community and government.
As Mill Island is a pretty safe area, the primary safety concerns are theft, illegally parked vehicles and abandoned cars. Sinesi and Markowitz — who’ve been with the organization for 25 years and 11 years respectively — explained that, due to the safeness of the neighborhood, the police often put the community on the backburner. They said they hope they can advocate for increased police attention to the area.
When it comes to communication, the civic leaders said that there are often instances where there are infrastructure changes in the community that they find out about secondhand or after the fact. An example were some speed bumps recently installed in the area, which they found out about from signage.
Another issue they’d like to address is the low involvement levels — from board membership to due payment to meeting turnout to volunteers.
“There’s only so much that a small group can accomplish,” Sinesi said. “The size of people willing to step up and volunteer has diminished in the years that we’ve been in this civic and so it would be nice to have more people, younger people, you know, more computer-literate, more technology-driven people to come in and help us move the civic into the next generation.”