Nickname: The Florist
Favorite ISSUE: Removing Trucks
Tony Nunziato's own friends will admit that when the florist goes to a meeting, he is "a pit bull."
Peering out of the windows of Enchanted Florist in Maspeth is the store's namesake: a florist who doubles as a community activist. His activism against over development and excessive truck traffic leave him fighting for Maspeth into the wee hours of the night. Combining his day and night jobs helped him become the Chairman of CB5's Environmental Committee.
Nunziato believes Maspeth residents have the same needs as the flowers he looks after: fresh air, clean water, and an undisturbed piece of Earth in which to lay their roots.
Speaking of roots, Nunziato's cousin is Councilman Eric Gioia. The Nunziato family tree extends into the Elks Club, Queens Chamber of Commerce, St. Sebastian's, the Long Island City YMCA, and numerous other civic organizations. "It must be something in the Nunziato blood," he conceded.
Nunziato rejoiced when Mayor Bloomberg said a park will be created on the 6.5-acre site of the old Elmhurst Gas Tank. Those plans blocked a private developer from bringing to Grand Avenue a Home Depot, Commerce Bank and other stores.
Another project Nunziato is hopeful about is Grand Avenue Truck Bypass Route.
For some time, Nunziato has lamented the condition of the street where his store is located. "Grand Avenue's not so grand anymore," because of heavy truck traffic, he said. He and the late Frank Principe, former CB5 Chairman, proposed for westbound trucks on the Long Island Expressway to exit one stop early, and used Maurice Avenue instead of Grand Avenue.
A firm hired by the City's Department of Transportation is now reviewing the plan. If approved, it would virtually eliminate oversized trucks from the main thoroughfare of Maspeth, returning it not quite to the days of the horse and buggy, but sedans and SUVs.
Most Outrageous Act
When the weather dipped below zero, and the wind blew snow down a deserted Grand Avenue, Nunziato tucked his head into his chest, and walked into a nearly deserted meeting held by the Department of Transportation earlier this year. The topic: truck traffic on Grand Avenue. Queens Commissioner Connie Moran of the DOT admitted it was "one of the coldest days of the year," as she greeted Nunziato and others.
His hair is slick-backed and graying, his stomach protrudes slightly. His speech is unhurried and whimsical, like a storyteller. But below his affable demeanor, is a seemingly indestructible engine.
"My wife says that when I die, she's going to look to see where I hide my battery," Nunziato said.
"A pit bull," is how Councilman Dennis Gallagher described Nunziato. He is "dedicated to his community and stops at nothing to fight for what he believes in."
Not even bricks hurled through the windows of his flower shop have stopped Nunziato. That's what he found after speaking out against a project popular with some unions. "I was testifying against The Cross Harbor Project. That night my windows were smashed," he said. No charges were ever filed, and Nunziato hasn't slowed down for a second.