We attended our first Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association meeting in March of 2009, invited by WRBA’s then-president Vance Barbour. We had recently started a website about Woodhaven and were asked to speak about it for a few minutes.
I think I was given five minutes and ended up speaking for close to 20 (big surprise). No one seemed to mind though, as I was talking about their favorite topic: Woodhaven.
Up until that first meeting, I had no idea what the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association did; I thought they were some sort of tax agency. I had spent the first 40-plus years of my life not all that interested in what was going on around me.
But our decision to get involved was a little bit like a homecoming. At that initial meeting I met Robert and Maria Thomson for the first time. They both knew my dad from way back, and since he had recently passed, I loved the idea of meeting his friends.
And then I ran into State Senator Joseph Addabbo. He and I went back a long ways to freshman year at Archbishop Molloy High School.
And then I met the president of the local little league, Terrence Flanagan, who had guided an ailing Rich-Haven through the rocky path towards becoming WORKS Little League. He was also a former teammate of mine in Rich-Haven, our shortstop, and one of my father’s favorite players.
And at the end of that first meeting I attended, I was approached by Mr. and Mrs. Amabile, who remembered me from so many years ago when Mr. Amabile managed me on my first Little League team when I was about eight years old.
No wonder I took to civic involvement so quickly; I was surrounded by people I knew or were familiar with almost my entire life.
I went to my first meeting in March 2009, and joined the WRBA board three months later in June. I had a lot of catching up to do.
I didn’t know the difference between a State Senator and an Assemblyman, or what someone who sits on the City Council does. Apart from Joe, I really didn’t know any of the politicians. I was a blank slate.
And it was around that time I experienced my first election up close. There was a special election to fill an Assembly seat, and I got to sit on the board as we had a debate between the candidates.
That was the election that Mike Miller won to become our assemblyman, which he has been for the past ten years, winning reelection every two years since then.
I remember Mike at his first meeting. He was a little on the shy side, looking down more than up, but he came across as real genuine good guy, as he still does today.
We went to his inauguration in Glendale, where I was introduced to Senator Chuck Schumer, who I had never heard of. Overall I’m pretty apolitical, and apart from the mayor and the president probably couldn’t name too many other politicians at the time.
I didn’t have much use for them, to be honest. But I thought it was pretty clear from the start that Mike was one of the good ones. He was a local civic guy who got involved and ended up in office. He didn’t run for a job, he ran to do some good.
A lot has changed over those past ten years. Many of the faces that I grew accustomed to seeing have moved on to their reward, and I miss them. The world is a much angrier place now, a more dangerous place.
But ten years after we started there are some things that have been constants, and Mike Miller is one of those. Congratulations and thank you to Mike Miller for his representation of our community this past decade.
And if you’re interested in getting more involved in your community, it’s never too late to start. The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association will be hosting its monthly Town Hall meeting this Saturday, September 21, at noon at Emanuel United Church of Christ at 91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard. Hope to see you there.