The 8.9 acre Frank Principe Park features five baseball fields, two handball courts, two tennis courts, bocce courts, a playground, and fitness equipment. The park is named after community leader Frank Principe (1909-2004), who worked for the creation of this park in the 1930s and staunchly fought for its well being throughout the remainder of his life.
A native of Brooklyn’s East New York, Mr. Principe attended Manual Training High School and graduated Cornell University’s School of Civil Engineering in 1931. The young engineer sought to build housing in Maspeth Queens, and also recognized that the burgeoning neighborhood needed a park. Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981) supported turning a water pumping station here in to a park, but Principe needed to lobby the Board of Estimate and the Borough President as well. On June 1, 1940 this officially became Maurice Park, after James Maurice (1814-1884), a U.S. Congressman from Maspeth.
In 1946 Mr. Principe founded the Principe-Danna concrete company in Long Island City, Queens. Four years later he married Virginia Grello (1908-1996) who then came to work for his company. Around that time, Mrs. Principe became very interested in education and the operations and physical condition of St. Stanislaus School, and she began to devote her time and effort to improving the quality of life for residents of Community Board Five.
As a founding member of the Maurice Park Civic Association, Mrs. Principe worked hard to beautify this site, and she advocated for the addition of street trees in Maspeth. Perhaps Mrs. Principe’s most difficult challenge was halting the construction of a sewage plant in West Maspeth. In 1999, Commissioner Henry J. Stern renamed this park’s playground in honor of Mrs. Principe.
Beginning in the mid-1990s Mr. Principe served as the chairman of Community Board Five, a role that gave him significant power to shape Maurice Park’s $2,338,000 renovation, completed in 1996. At age 91 Mr. Principe continued to improve the park he helped create 60 years earlier. In order to effect a reduction in vandalism, he recommended scheduling league games at the park’s lighted basketball courts till 11:00 p.m.
By the time Mr. Principe passed away, on May 3, 2004, he had earned the appellation “Mr. Maspeth.” In response to a request from the community, in 2005 Commissioner Benepe renamed Maurice Park (James Maurice, was a U.S. Congressman, Maspeth landholder and founder of St. Saviour’s Church) for the man who fought for its creation in the 1930s, and helped usher it into the 21st century. This also marked the first time a husband and wife were separately honored in the same park location.