BY ANTHONY O’REILLY
COMMUNITY INVOLVMENT: As president of the Bayside Historical Society, Paul Di Benedetto heads the board of directors and helps to define its mission.
The group, formed in 1964, works to archive and preserve Bayside’s history by maintaining those properties that have already been landmarked, as well as working to landmark other sites in Bayside. Di Benedetto said the group was originally formed to save Fort Totten and the Lawrence Cemetery. The two sites are now a NYC landmark and since then the society has been working to provide maintenance for both.
The society also works to educate people about Bayside’s history.
Di Benedetto has been president of the society for a year. He is also a member of Community Board 11.
BACKGROUND: Di Benedetto has been living in Bayside since 1995. He said he originally moved there because of its proximity to Manhattan, where he was working at the time, and fell in love with the historical houses in the area.
FAVORITE MEMORY: Di Benedetto says his favorite memory in working with the society is seeing the look of joy in children, and even adults, as they learn of the area’s history. “It’s great to see how they take [history] up too and how it relates to them.”
INSPIRATION: Di Benedetto said he didn’t like the fact that land developers would come in and destroy many of the homes in the area.
“I didn’t like the fact that developers and short-sighted people were coming and buying the houses,” he said. “They’d clear the properties and put all this asbestos in the air.” In working with the society, Di Benedetto hopes to halt, if not completely stop, this kind of development.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “It’s a lack of understanding,” Di Benedetto said about trying to get sites landmarked. “People are afraid for some reason.” Di Benedetto said he tries to get people to understand that by landmarking a site, their house or property is “locked in time.”