Elected officials and civic leaders honored a revered community trailblazer with a street co-naming ceremony on Saturday at the southeast corner of Seward Avenue and 235th Street in Bellerose Manor.
The late Bernard “Barney” Aquilino was a community leader in eastern Queens for over 40 years and worked tirelessly to better Bellerose Manor and surrounding neighborhoods, according to elected officials, fellow civic leaders and family members.
In the 1970s, Aquilino joined the Rocky Hill Civic Association and shortly after became its president for more than 25 years, and was involved in it overall for 40 years, according to Councilman Barry Grodenchik’s (D-Oakland Gardens) Office.
During his time at the Rocky Hill Civic Association, Aquilino prevented the closure of the local elementary school P.S. 18 in Queens Village, he facilitated the relocation of a sanitation garage so that his neighbors could rest easy from the rumblings of garbage trucks and fought to get the U.S. Postal Service to rename his neighborhood Bellerose Manor, according to Grodenchik’s office.
“The late Bernard Aquilino did outstanding work for Bellerose Manor and for all of eastern Queens,” said Grodenchik. “I cannot think of a more appropriate way to honor a man so dedicated to his community and the borough.”
Aquilino would weed and clean public green spaces in his neighborhood, he supported local youth groups and he educated homeowners about services that they were entitled to from the government, according to Grodenchik’s office.
“Bernard M. Aquilino dedicated his life to bettering his community through his selfless acts of community service,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “From this day forward, all who pass through this intersection will be reminded of the tireless dedication to others exhibited by Mr. Aquilino.”
Aquilino brought a “unique vitality and strength” to his community, according to Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows).
“Bernard Aquilino was the epitome of what a civic leader should be,” said Frank Toner, the vice president of the Rocky Hill Civic Association. “The entire community benefitted from his work and dedication.”
Corey Bearak, the acting president of the North Bellerose Civic Association, remembered the impact of Aquilino’s work.
“I recall Barney Aquilino as a good man with whom I enjoyed working on many a project,” said Bearak. From moving the “sanitation garage on Winchester Boulevard under the Grand Central Parkway instead of on the Creedmoor campus next to Bellerose homes to developing, under the auspices of the Queens Civic Congress, a Civic Master Plan that guided much of the re-use of much of the Creedmoor campus, including the three public schools there.
We won some good fights. But more than anything, Barney had integrity and set a good example for us, then-younger activists.”
Professor Steven Aquilino, Barney’s son, remembered that his father took great pride in his work.
“Second only to his love for his family, this neighborhood and the Rocky Hill Civic Association were our father’s passion,” said Prof. Aquilino. “Naming this street Bernard M. Aquilino Place is a wonderful tribute to him for all his hard work and dedication, and our family is very grateful for this honor.”