One man who has been a driving force of the Morris Park community for nearly half a century has recently decided it is time to pass along his legacy in the Bronx.
Frankie Agovino, a founding member and current vice president of the Morris Park Community Association and related neighborhood affiliations, will be retiring from his long served post of 46 years, he told the Bronx Times.
He’s called Morris Park home since moving from east Harlem as a young boy, falling in love with both the Bronx and the sport it’s so well known for — baseball.
Agovino played on the New York Yankees travelling rookie team while growing up in the borough, a proud experience which he wanted to share with his neighborhood.
The neighborhood stalwart was particularly active in bringing sports to Morris Park, especially softball. He was instrumental in creating the neighborhood’s longtime softball league, which played its games at what is now Loretto playground.
Throughout the years, Frankie would even umpire games in what began as an eight-team league and grew to 60. Locals said that it was one of the most unifying events the community has ever seen.
Aside from the good-hearted fun of America’s pastime, there was strategy and even a degree of city planning implemented in Agovino’s softball league — having park lights installed to keep illicit behavior away from the community space.
Resident safety and the good of Morris Park had always been a top priority for Agovino, which is why he created a neighborhood watch patrol in Morris Park back in 1976 after someone close to him fell victim to a mugging.
The patrol, which worked hand in hand with the MPCA throughout the years, has been credited by longtime residents for not only keeping Morris Park safe through difficult years for the Bronx, but it also brought valuable funding to the area through fundraisers Agovino was behind.
Actions like that attracted many new homeowners to Morris Park throughout the years according to Vinny Tolentino, a close friend of the longtime neighborhood activist.
“To say that he has been involved civically for over 40 years speaks for itself,” Tolentino said. “There’s only one way to describe Frankie and that is relentless when it comes to getting things done, that’s a great quality for a civic leader. He will be missed.”
That sentiment was reiterated by MPCA president Al D’Angelo, who credited Agovino’s directness throughout the years.
“He said what he thought, he always was able to get problems on the table,” D’Angelo said, calling Agovino “a credit to the community.”
While working closely as a former president of the MPCA, Agovino also enjoyed some celebrity moments over the years, like when he told former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani that he “might be a mayor, but I’m a president.”
Of course, that line didn’t work when Agovino posed for a photo with former President George W. Bush.
Since that time, Agovino has also been praised by local elected officials for his contributions. One of these lawmakers is Councilman Mark Gjonaj, who is grateful for what Agovino has done for his section of the Bronx.
“This neighborhood wouldn’t be the same without him,” said John Reilly, who has called Frankie a dear friend since they were both only 14-years-old.
Calling his friend one of the hardest workers Morris Park has ever seen, Reilly said, “he’s going to miss it.”
Another friend of Agovino, Cliff Thieleke, called Frankie’s retirement “bittersweet,” but for good reasons. Thieleke worked closely with Frankie on the creation of Morris Park’s various sports leagues, an experience that bonded the two for life.
“He is a pillar of the community,” Thieleke said.