“All things in the world seem right again,” New Hyde Park Mayor Daniel Petruccio said during a meeting on December 18 at the village hall.
He was gesturing to a woman who had occupied the front row of the village board – press row – for the better part of three decades and was once again – and appropriately – seated front-and-center, at lest for one more night: Maggie Whitely, the former editor of the Nassau Illustrated newspaper.
“We desperately, desperately miss you and we’d love for you to just come and sit there just so it feels right again,” Petruccio said. “But I’m sure you’re happy to have your Tuesday nights to yourself and I know what that feels like.”
On the initiative of deputy mayor Robert Lofaro, the village board invited several members and representatives from the New Hyde Park community, including the chamber of commerce, boy scouts and village employees to honor Whitely for her time spent at the weekly newspaper, as she had been dismissed from her duties in October 2012.
“When Maggie wrote the article, that was the meeting you were at,” Lofaro said. “Sometimes you read an article of the meeting you’re at and you say to yourself ‘was I even at that meeting? I don’t remember ever saying that.’ But Maggie was so accurate and responsible in her reporting and she did a great job. We miss her dearly.”
“I feel like she’s been part of our team actually,” Petruccio said, recalling he first met Whitely at his first board meeting as a resident. “In those days it was a different time, it was a bit tumultuous and there was about 100 people at the meeting, a lot of screaming and yelling, it was across the hall in Marcus Christ Hall and even at that point Maggie, even in the midst of chaos – and I would call it chaos – Maggi was very calm and she was very objective about everything and professional. I noted that the first time I encountered her and then was pleased to be able to work with her and work in front of her more often than not for the last 12 years as she covered our village in a great way.”
Members of the village board collectively presented her with a bouquet of flowers and a certificate of appreciation.
Whitely “came to all our events,” Petruccio said. “Events that I didn’t expect to see her at, she would show up, she would make her way here before she was headed off to something in Williston Park, always apologizing if she came late or had to leave early; always checking to make sure our portrayal of the events at a meeting were accurate, making sure the numbers were right and in a time when – I don’t want to editorialize – but in a time when the news on a national level is so controversial and so parochial in that there are sides and positions and people making their points and really not presenting the news anymore, you change from one channel to another and you’re shocked when you think they’re talking about the same story, Maggie always made her stories about the facts of the story; she let you draw the conclusions as to what was happening, she didn’t infer what was going on, she didn’t editorialize and as a board, whether we’re right or wrong in our actions, whether people like what we’re doing or didn’t like what we were doing, we always knew that when Maggie presented it, we would get a fair and unbiased presentation and that in the news business is a rare thing today.”
Said New Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce President Mark Laytin “Maggie was always there whether we told her something was happening or not, she found out, she covered it whether it was at night, in the morning, on the weekend, she was there and spreading the word about New Hyde Park, which we all love.”
Bringing members of the boy scouts with him as well as the Kiwanis, beautification and parks & recreation committees, Richard Pallisco said: “Maggie I want to thank you very much for the many years I’ve been in scouts... for all your hard work. You did a great job.”
Carol Nowakowski also presented Whitely with an honorary membership to the New Hyde Park Village Museum.
“She might as well be, half her articles are going to be in the museum as it is,” Lofaro quipped.
Nassau Legis. Richard Nicolello, R–New Hyde Park, could not attend the ceremony, but conveyed his appreciation as well.
“I’ve known Maggie for about 26 years and I always refer to her as ‘the lady with the hats’ because every time she came to an event she had a different hat on,” resident Ellen La Regina said. “But she made our community look better than it really is in print. She was always there, there was never a time when she wasn’t available to come and cover an event and whether she had three other places to go, she always made sure that she was in New Hyde Park. She went above and beyond the call of duty and I appreciate it.”
At the request of trustee Richard Coppola, the electronic sign in front of the village also presented a message to Whitely for her work.
“I just want to say one thing: I love New Hyde Park,” Whitely said. “I always loved it, it was never, ever work to come to New Hyde Park; it’s the greatest village ever, it really is; greatest place.”
Trustee Lawrence Montreuil, who Whitely has known since he was a member of the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park Board of Education: “New Hyde Park loves you.”
“We miss you,” added Lofaro.
“I miss everybody, I really do,” Whitely said. “Really.”