A village that started out as five farms, Malverne was a place where people from New York City got their produce. Since the farms were near natural waterways, the ground was fertile. The New York Bay Extension Railroad Company began running through the village in 1895, delivering the produce and leading to the community’s steady growth.
“It was that railroad that really became the impetus after World War I . . . the real development of this village,” Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett said. “It’s funny to think about this densely populated, Mayberry-esque town feel that we all love, but it really starts back with those five farms, the railroad and everything that continued from it.”
Village leaders joined local elected officials on the front steps of Village Hall to recognize Malverne’s 100th anniversary on April 13. Corbett was the first to sign a centennial proclamation commemorating the day.
“I joke with our village historian, David Weinstein, that Malverne is the Euphrates of Long Island,” Corbett said. “You don’t find places like Malverne in the greater world anymore . . . this small-town, Mayberry-esque feel where everybody wants to get together and give back.”
Former Mayor Joseph Canzoneri said that the village has able to keep its “small-town appeal” because roads like Sunrise Highway and Hempstead Turnpike don’t pass through it. In the 1970s, the village administration opposed the county’s plans to widen major roads in the village, like Franklin Avenue.
“You’ll notice, by the American Legion Hall Post 44, that the road goes down from four to two lanes,” Canzoneri said. “The old administration didn’t want a major highway coming through the community. We’re sort of nestled in the middle of a lot of large towns, and we’ve retained our smallness.”
Because of that, he said, the village could easily close its streets for events such as the Memorial Day parade, the Lighting of Malverne and fall festivals, among others.
“The fact that we’re not an extremely large village allows us all to be friends with each other,” Canzoneri said. “This is the beauty of being in a small community.”
Corbett added that previous village administrations, including Canzoneri’s, that fought to keep the police and fire departments intact, helped the community thrive. “We stand on the shoulders of many boards that came before us,” Corbett said. “All of those groups allowed our village to truly be autonomous. We are the sole benefactors of that.”
Town of Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin, a Valley Stream native, said he often visited Malverne with his friends when he was growing up because of its annual events. “There was just so much to offer,” Clavin recalled. “It’s a wonderful community with wonderful residents who care about one another and love celebrating and being together.”
State Assemblywoman Judy Griffin, who awarded a citation to the village from herself and State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, said she had spent a lot of time in the village with her husband, Mike, a Malverne native. “From going to the train station to see Santa to participating in many of the other events here, my husband and I enjoyed the time we spent in Malverne,” Griffin said.
During challenging times such as the coronavirus pandemic, Canzoneri said, the community had to rely on community spirit. While many businesses in surrounding communities have suffered, Malverne has managed to keep many of its businesses open. Several have opened on Hempstead Avenue in the past year, and some have celebrated other milestones.
“In spite of the adversities that we’ve confronted, we all pulled together,” Canzoneri said.
Corbett said that the village plans to hold numerous celebrations throughout the year to celebrate the centennial. The Centennial Committee, which formed in 2019, has worked to create a continuum of events that will be announced at a later date.
“Today was truly a way to mark the historical significance of our village,” Corbett said. “Hopefully, as we [recover] from this horrible virus, we can start to bring the whole community back together.”