February 11, 2016
Anthony Marraccini was a parks advocate, community leader, entrepreneur, World War II veteran, and the uncle of NY4P’s Senior Development Associate, Julia Marra. Like Julia, he was a lifelong Staten Islander.
Julia remembers her uncle Tony as someone who was always offering her and other members of his family entrepreneurial advice. “He was always trying to get people to be really involved,” Julia recalls. “He was trying to get people to think of new ideas, and actually carry them out the way he did with the park.”
“The park” is the Seaside Wildlife Nature Park, which Anthony created from an abandoned, trash-filled lot in Staten Island. Located on the waterfront with views of the Great Kills Harbor, it’s not hard to imagine the potential Anthony saw in the neglected land.
In 1994 Anthony founded Turnaround Friends Inc., an organization whose website describes an ambitious and community-focused mission:
Turnaround Friends Inc. is a nonprofit organization whose fundamental mission is to identify degraded or abandoned properties and to work cooperatively with others to form a "turnaround" plan to transform the negative conditions into a source of pride and an asset to the community. The goal and reasoning behind the mission is that a community’s social, environmental and economic conditions are significantly improved if its surroundings are enhanced with beauty, order and quality of life.
With TFI, Anthony initiated the process of turning the neglected land it into usable space. He rallied the community, organized volunteers, provided supplies and oversaw the entire process.
In 2008, after many years of hard work, the now clean and usable space became the Seaside Wildlife Nature Park, a part of the New York City parks system. Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe called it “one of the most beautiful parks in the City of New York.”
In June of 2015 the park was voted the best playground in Staten Island by readers of the SI Advance. Nicknamed “Pirate Park” for the large pirate ship replica, it also includes a Staten Island Ferry replica, water features and a sandbox. The park is landscaped with native seaside and salt marsh plants, and borders are edged with natural wood rails and nautical themed fences.
In addition to preserving open space and community-building, Anthony devoted many years during his retirement volunteering with the SCORE Association on Staten Island. As a retired business executive he mentored new and established small businesses, helping others to follow their dreams. In 2013 he received special recognition at the Staten Island NFP Association Community Service Awards program, recognizing leaders in Staten Island’s not-for-profit community.
Anthony passed away in December of 2015. He is survived by four children and eight grandchildren, and by his beautiful park.