Janine Materna: I’m a third generation Staten Islander
By Ilya Galak
Wikipedia: “A civic association is a type of organization whose official goal is to improve neighborhoods through volunteer work by its members”
Would you begin, Janine, by giving us a little information about yourself, your family background?
Sure, my name is Janine Materna and I’m a third generation Staten Islander. I’m the daughter of two loving hard working parents Joseph and Dolores Materna. From an early childhood, my parents instilled in me the values of honesty, self respect and respect for others. Most importantly, they instilled in me a strong work ethic. Through example, they show that the obstacles we face can be overcome with dedication, integrity and hard work. I’m the youngest of three girls. My two older sisters are Jodi Materna, an Attorney, and Jennifer a Financial Adviser. It was fun growing up and having my mother get our names confused, since all of our first name initials all begin with “J.” We are a very close-knit family that can truly rely on one another through thick and thin. I can honestly say that I enjoy spending time with them. I love tradition and enjoy celebrating my ethnic background, which is of Italian, Polish and Russian descent.
I was born in Great Kills and raised in Prince’s Bay. I’m the proud product of the New York City public school education. I graduated from Columbia University with a Political Science and Environmental Science degree. I also received a Graduate Certificate from the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University. I have worked in the financial services industry for a number of years, consulting Fortune 500 companies both domestically and globally.
I have a strong interest in autism. I learned about autism when I ran for New York City Council back in 2009. After going from town to town, knocking on doors and meeting people, I was taken back to learn about the high amount of families touched by a loved one with autism. After awhile, it felt like every other house I visited was impacted. I began studying the subject more and more, and found it to be really interesting, so much so, that I’m currently working towards my Masters Degree in Childhood and Special Education from St. John’s University. There is just something so special about children that I love. Special needs children hold a special place in my heart and I hope to one day truly make a positive difference in their lives.
I’m involved in a variety of organizations including serving as the President of the largest Civic Association on the South Shore of Staten Island the Pleasant Plains, Prince’s Bay, Richmond Valley Civic Association, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York Junior Board, Co-Chair the Alumni Representative Committee for Columbia University, New York Junior League, and the Women’s Auxiliary of the Staten Island Historical Society at Historic Richmond Town. I also serve on a variety of fundraising committees for the Jewish Community Center (JCC), American Cancer Society and the March of Dimes.
How did you get involved in community activities?
My passion for the community stems from an early age, when I noticed that helping others in need, giving back to my community and investigating the issues that concerned us all gave me a sense of fulfillment in improving society. I have always been passionate about making my community a better place. From grammar school, high school and beyond I have always been involved in some leadership capacity, whether it be organizing local food drives with the Girl Scouts, volunteering with the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and March of Dimes, being a student peer mentor through the Council for Unity New York City program, serving as Senior Class President of over 1,000 students at Tottenville High School (one of the largest and most diverse New York City public schools with a student body of over 4,000 students), or traveling to Albany, NY to lobby for more funding for updated textbooks. Back in high school, I received the prestigious New York City Public High School Distinguished Graduate of 2001 from Mayor Rudy Giuliani for demonstrating outstanding leadership, community service and scholarship. In addition, I received several Certificate of Outstanding Community Service awards from the former Congressman Vito Fossella, Former City Councilman Stephen Fialla, Former Congressman Michael McMahon, Assemblyman Matthew Titone, and Councilwoman Debi Rose.
What are the big issues you’ve faced since you’ve been a President of this Association?
One of the biggest challenges I faced as a new President was helping people adapt to the change of leadership that existed for close to 20 years. The former President, and friend of mine, Dennis Dell’ Angelo, served for 17 years of the association! As a new President, I had to work extra hard in changing people’s attitudes from what they were use to doing to what they could be doing to improve the quality of life in our community. After so many years of the same leadership, I faced people that were set in their ways a bit, but after awhile I gained their confidence and with their support have accomplished some great things in our community.
Another challenge I faced when first becoming President was being perceived as being much younger than my membership. When people first looked at me they viewed me as someone younger than them, but when they had a chance to get to know me they saw a person that is sharp, passionate, relentless and truly committed to doing what’s right for the people of the community.
Members of the community are getting more upset each day with the methadone clinic located at Staten Island University Hospital – South. People approach me all the time on how they are trying to get to work in the morning and are approached for drugs on the platform of the Prince’s Bay train station. I also hear complaints from business owners that they are constantly being harassed by patients of the methadone clinic, residents that live up and down Seguine Avenue complain of people loitering outside their homes, and parents of children that fear for the safety of their children, while they wait for the bus stop to head to school. The Civic Association understands that people are in need of help. However, what we are finding is that the methadone patients encountered on the train platform up and down Seguine Avenue are from the outer boroughs, and not Staten Island. We believe this doesn’t make sense and the people of the South Shore of Staten Island shouldn’t have to care for patients from outer boroughs when we don’t get a fair share of health services. The population on the South Shore of Staten Island has grown tremendously over the last 10-15 years, yet a woman that goes into labor is required to go to Staten Island University Hospital – North or RUMC, due to the lack of a maternity ward in the hospital on the South Shore. We don’t have a maternity ward for the women in our community, but we service people from other boroughs? In addition, the emergency room is outdated and not fully equipped with the latest technology like our neighboring hospitals on the North Shore. The Civic Association has collected thousands of signatures and plans to sit down with the executive board of Staten Island University Hospital to discuss our concerns some time in the near future.
Why is it important for residents to join the Civic Association?
I believe it’s important for people to get involved in their community by having a voice. The Pleasant Plains, Prince’s Bay, Richmond Valley Civic Association serves as a wonderful opportunity for committed residents of our community to address current issues that impact our community. I hear people everyday complaining about things they dislike about Staten Island, but never do anything about it. Well the Civic Association is an opportunity to make change happen, so get off the sidelines and get involved! Now more than ever is when every concerned citizen should belong to a civic association. In the South Shore of Staten Island, the oldest, most active and most prestigious civic organization is the Pleasant Plains, Prince’s Bay, Richmond Valley Civic Association.
By joining the Pleasant Plains, Prince’s Bay, Richmond Valley Civic Association you can express those concerns and complaints and work within the community in getting them resolved. The Civic Association doesn’t only serve as a place to complain, but to also suggest community-building events that can help foster a better sense of a community. We implemented four major traditions for our association, which are the Meet the Candidates Forum, Christmas Tree and Menorah Lighting Ceremony, Holiday Party and the Great American Barbecue held at the Seguine Mansion. These events serve as community builders for neighbors, business owners, families and friends alike to join forces and be a voice in our community. We strive to keep events as low cost as possible with the generous support of some local businesses to encourage more people of our community to get involved and continue to enhance the small town feeling of the 3 towns.
You can join Civic Association for as little as $20 per year per family. For that amount you receive a monthly newsletter and voting privileges.
Any thoughts for people that are thinking about applying to their Civic Association?
Your community will become exactly what you allow it to become. Be a positive influence in building a good community or suffer the consequences. You can no longer procrastinate or turn your back and let someone else “do it.”
Anyone can join the Pleasant Plains, Prince’s Bay, Richmond Valley Civic Association it’s open to all Staten Islanders. We have many people in the Civic Association from other towns across Staten Island, however, only those that live within the 3 towns the Civic Association represents can vote. If you have an idea that you believe would improve the quality of life for you and/or your family, let us know. You can get as involved as you choose.
We meet the second Monday of each month from 8:00pm – 9:30pm at the CYO-MIV Community Center at Mount Loretto. Some issues we plan on addressing this year is to work towards securing a fast ferry to Manhattan, which was promised by local officials, but yet not delivered, establishing smart Park & Ride facilities at our 3 train stations, beautifying the community by planting flowers, conducting beach cleanups, and hosting additional cost effective family friendly events to bring the three towns of Pleasant Plains, Prince’s Bay and Richmond Valley together.
Where do you think you’ve been able to make the biggest change in the district?
The biggest change I have been able to make is getting people off the sidelines and more engaged in the community. Our membership has grown tremendously to over 250 paying members. I have been able to get people that would have normally never gotten involved to becoming more engaged than ever in the community.
During our monthly meetings, the Civic Association has a speaker to inform the community on a variety of topics that influence the community. Some topics covered include: autism awareness, Office of Emergency Contact (ways to prepare and be ready for a disaster), the MTA, Senator Andrew Lanza, Dina Tush the mother of Jessica Tush on domestic violence education, New York City Parks Department, organ donation, and the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce.
Last year I was approached by a mother whose son was on a wait list for a liver donation. Although he was from our local area, his changes of receiving a liver were much greater in Ohio. The family was in need of financial help, due to the high costs of travel and time taken off work for the boy’s care. With that said, the Civic Association planned a fundraiser that was held at the Old Bermuda Inn, which raised over $7,000.00 to help pay for the costs of staying in Ohio. This was accomplished within a 2-week period of time. Thankfully he received a liver and is fine after his surgery.
On what issues can Civic Association be most influential?
From the past to today, the Civic Association has been influential on variety of issues from land use, the creation of Lemon Creek Park & Fishing Pier, establishment of Bloomingdale Park, replacement of the WWI monument in Pleasant Plains and the implementation of zoning changes for our community to stop over development. Most importantly, we strive each day to fulfill our motto in preserving the small-town quality of life.
The Civic Association each month helps feed our neighbors in need by contributing food each month to the St. Edward Food Pantry located in Mount Loretto. One of the most upsetting encounters of mine, was when the pantry requested that members of the Civic start contributing baby food. I can’t imagine a baby going hungry, especially within our own community.