BY DIANE S. WILLIAMS
After a 44-year career in the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), Local 1508 Principal Parks Supervisor Vincent Cascella will retire in October.
“The highlight of my career has been helping others learn to do the job well and to see them move up to full-time parkies and supervisors,” Cascella said. “I learned to love city parks and I grew to appreciate how important Prospect Park is to the city’s residents.”
His retirement as DPR’s last Principal Parks Supervisor (PPS) marks the end of an era. The City redlined the job title in the 1990s and Cascella is the last one. Parks now assigns PPS duties to Parks Supervisors 2, which Local 1508 represents.
Cascella started in 1977 as a seasonal Parks worker and was later hired full time as a Local 983 Associate Parks Service Worker. He stood out partly because he rode a motorcycle and played in a rock-n-roll band. Scoring in the top 20 on civil service exams, Cascella climbed the Park Department’s career ladder as a Parks Supervisor in 1987 and then became a Principal Parks Supervisor in 1993.
He connected well with his workmates and with Local 1508 leaders. He encouraged his coworkers to participate in their union.
Local 1508 President Mike Zeno said, “Vincent Cascella and I were partners in District 10, Brooklyn, in 1985, I was a new APSW. He was not only a great employee who I learned from, we became lifelong friends. As the last PPS in the agency, he represents the title with the upmost integrity and leadership. That makes me proud to have him in our local and most of all, to call him my friend.”
In Cascella‘s career, he saw several major events that reflect New York City’s beauty and resilience. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks destroyed the Twin Towers in 2001, he was one of hundreds of the city’s blue collar workers who helped New York rebuild after the tragedy. Cascella said, “I was assigned to Staten Island where my team collected and distributed supplies to FDNY and Fresh Kills staff.”
In 2012, Cascella helped lead the cleanup of Staten Island’s District 3 after Superstorm Sandy damaged some 10 miles of South Shore beachfront, impacting many Parks properties. “Neighborhoods and parks were decimated. People’s homes were destroyed,” said Cascella, whose Midland Beach neighborhood was hit hard by the 1,000-mile wide hurricane. “Part of my job was to keep my team motivated and maintain good morale through it all. We cataloged the damage and rebuilt the city parks and beaches on Staten Island. Parks give residents solace and the ability to reconnect with nature and their communities.”
Cascella worked to beautify Prospect Park for major Hollywood films, including Spike Lee’s Malcolm X. Parks assigned him to Tompkins Square Park when Bruce Willis filmed the blockbuster Die Hard; Elephant Fountain is the backdrop for a pivotal scene. Whether working in Washington Heights, Red Hook, or Fort Greene, Cascella said, “My goal is to make sure the park looks better than when I arrived. I have worked with exceptional teams over the years. It’s been my joy to beautify New York City parks and do what I love.”