A brownstone in Brooklyn. A log cabin in Greenwood Lake. A house in Malverne. What do these extremely diverse places of dwelling have in common? Robert Powers, president of the Malverne Historical and Preservation Society, resided in each of these locations.
Although he was born on Long Island in 1960, Powers' story begins long before that with his family who lived in the Bensonhurst area of Brooklyn. While they were city people, his father's family owned a summer house in the "American Venice" in Lindenhurst.
"In the 1920's and 30's there was a little area of Lindenhurst down by the water and developers made it the 'American Venice' and it was supposed to depict the Venice in Italy," said Powers. "They had bridges and gondolas, because it was all these canals that ran in and out."
Eventually, his parents decided to relocate and purchased a house in Copiague, where Powers was born.
His grandparents remained in Brooklyn and very often, Powers and his family would make the drive from Copiague to Brooklyn to visit them. Although they passed by the exit to Malverne on the Southern State Parkway each time, he had no idea this village existed. It wasn't until his early twenties that he became aware of Malverne when he would visit his aunt, who lived on Bond Street.
After attending public schools in Copiague, Powers began working in Manhattan in the printing industry, but by age 25, he decided to pursue a degree. He attended Nassau Community College, then Rhode Island Community College outside of Providence, and ultimately returned to New York to finish his degree at Empire State College in Manhattan while living in Brooklyn.
At age 30, he met Howard Costa, who became his life partner. Together they bought a condo in Brooklyn on the block where Powers' family lived. Over the next several years, they lived in various places, including a log cabin in Greenwood Lake, near Tuxedo, N.Y., the Times Square area,Kansas City, Missouri and then, a rental Brooklyn Heights.
By this point they had lived in the suburbs, the city and the country. However, suburbia came calling again and they were back on a house hunt. But which suburb?
Both with steady jobs in Manhattan, they needed a community that was accessible to the city.
"Suffolk County was a little too far to commute," said Powers, so they looked in New Jersey and Lynbrook. "A friend of Howard's said, 'You know, there's a great little place called Malverne, where we do our shopping and we go to the bakery and we go bowling,' and he started telling us about the little town of Malverne," recalls Powers.
It was then they found Patty Murphy, a real estate agent at
"When we first started looking in Malverne…we started having lunch at and 's, and we started walking up and down Hempstead [Avenue] looking at the different merchants and stores that are there."
Eventually, they decided Malverne was the place for them and purchased a four-bedroom, two-bath Cape Cod in 2005.
Shortly after this, Murphy handed Powers two tickets to the Historical Society and according to Powers, said, "I don't care what you do; you go to this gala."
They did. And they found the communal atmosphere and camaraderie amongst the residents most appealing. At the gala, they met the members of the Historical Society's board, including then President Michael Delahenty. According to Powers, Delahenty said, "We should get you on the board."
The next night they attended the .
"We were so enchanted at this time by Malverne," said Powers. "I remember turning to Howard and making the joke, 'I feel like I'm Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life'…it was a very good feeling at that point. We really fell in love with Malverne."
Powers joined the Historical Society in June of 2005 as a trustee. By 2006 Delahenty left, but before his departure, he nominated Powers for president. He took office in June of 2006.
Powers hopes to stay in Malverne forever.
"I will remain a Long Islander. My mom, brothers and sisters-in law, nephews and their other halves, and our grand-nephew, all live on Long Island. My plan is to retire [in] Malverne. I'm just so content here."