For the past decade, Donald Barbieri has been doing what he loves best: Serving the community.
The New Hyde Park trustee has been elected three times to the board, enjoys the New Hyde Park scenery and engages in a very active social life, all while being confined to a wheelchair for the past 13 years.
“I can’t say thank you enough to the people who have supported me, it’s really wonderful,” Barbieri said. “I’m disabled, but my involvement in the community in this way has been super healthy for me.”
The 52-year old is an example of someone who has overcome obstacles; an inspiration to the others who work with him.
“I can tell you that in my entire life I have never met another person that inspires me as much as trustee Barbieri,” said Mayor Daniel Petruccio, who first met Barbieri about 14 years ago. “His entire approach to life, his principles, are beyond question.”
Before village hall, Barbieri got involved in politics while doing advocacy work for the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society, the disease which he was first diagnosed with 22 years ago.
Barbieri and the current village hall office members have been working toward “moving the envelope” in what he believes to be the right direction in order to address many different concerns of the public.
“In some respects Donnie is a one-man wrecking crew,” Petruccio said. “He is around the village more during the day than most of us and I think from that results in him being involved in a lot of things.”
Barbieri is currently working on the Operation Mainstreet project to improve the streets of Jericho Turnpike, an effort which Petruccio said he has put his “blood, sweat and tears” into.
“I can say emphatically…in terms of sheer volume of work, I don’t think any of us put in as much time as he does,” Petruccio said. “I think if you ask most people who are the different members of the board — there are four trustees and a mayor — I think the largest percent of the population would know Don Barbieri.”
Barbieri was able to find funding with different levels of government and worked with the Department of Transportation and designers to come up with the plans.
“We have devoted out efforts to try and pull that money to make an improvement aesthetically and to the business district in New Hyde Park and we’re getting close,” Barbieri said. “We are this close to finalizing plans and to complete the streetscape project on Jericho and I’m hoping that I can announce to the public in the very near future that we have a date scheduled to begin that construction (hopefully by the spring).”
Aside from Barbieri’s main focus on Operation Mainstreet, he works with the Cultural Commission where together they were able to construct the new William Gill Jr. Theater upstairs in village hall.
“In my own mind I like the idea that we can leave [these legacies] behind like the theater and hopefully the project on Jericho Turnpike…and it makes me feel good about the efforts that we’ve spent in trying to improve the community.”
Working for the community has given Barbieri’s life direction, and despite his chronic progressive illness, he never quits.
“We talk about different aspects of faith and beliefs and I use Donnie as an example often of a person with the right attitude about suffering in life,” Petruccio said, who also teaches religion class at Chaminade High School. “Donnie hasn’t been dealt the greatest hand, but every day he has a smile on his face and never once does he really complain.
“The first words out of his mouth whenever he sees you, he wants to know how you’re doing,” Petruccio said. “I want to be like him.”
Barbieri, who grew up and attended New Hyde Park schools, still lives in the area; only a couple of blocks away from Village Hall.
“I take the wheelchair out of the house and roll right down,” Barbieri said. “You’ll see me all over the streets of New Hyde Park in the power wheelchair.”
Barbieri is often accompanied by his service dog Hallie. He added: “You do the best you can to get around.”
“I’m a lifetime member of the community and I’m not afraid to say that I kind-of love this place,” the lifelong New Hyde Parker said. “I thank God that I have some help and a lot of family…I was blessed to have a mother and brothers and sisters and my brother-in law who are super selfless-type of people. It’s amazing,” he said, getting choked up once again. “They are a huge help to me, all of them. And unfortunately with this kind of thing you need it, it’s how you make it...I’m lucky.”