Maria Campanella loves Bensonhurst and Bath Beach so much she believes the Department of Transportation should erect a sign at the Belt Parkway’s Bay Parkway exit to welcome visitors to the area as they’re getting off the highway.
“Bath Beach and Bensonhurst are beautiful communities and we should be telling everybody that,” Campanella told this newspaper.
Campanella is a legendary figure throughout Southwest Brooklyn known as “Maria the Ice Cream Girl” due to her many years as an ice cream truck driver selling ice cream on local streets and outside of schools. She presented her new idea to Community Board 11, where it generated a positive reaction at a recent meeting. Campanella is a former board member.
Board 11 Chairperson Bill Guarinello assigned the Transportation Committee, led by Vice Chairperson Laurie Windsor, to take a look at the proposal to see if it’s viable.
Campanella also showed the board a design she came up with for the sign featuring a group of children gathered in front of her signature ice cream truck. The sun is smiling and a rainbow stretches across the sky. The words, “Welcome to Bath Beach & Bensonhurst” are located just under the rainbow. On the bottom, Campanella wrote a slogan, “Two Fun Diversified Communities.”
An ice cream truck is included in the design, Campanella said, because “who doesn’t like ice cream?”
But she quickly added that her name and personal logo are not on the ice cream truck depicted in the sign. “I’m not promoting myself,” she said.
The sign, which would be posted at Exit 5 of the Belt Parkway for motorists to see as they enter Bensonhurst, would be a great way to promote the spirit of diversity that exists in Bensonhurst and Bath Beach, according to Campanella.
The two communities are home to people of many different nationalities and cultures, she said.
The roadway sign wouldn’t mark the first time Campanella has had the chance to display her creative side.
Four years ago, she self-published a book she wrote, “Maria the Ice Cream Girl,” about an ice cream truck driver and the children she encounters on her route. The book is illustrated by Ardor Cardinal.
Campanella is also known in the neighborhood for her charitable endeavors.
In 2017, she organized fundraisers in local restaurants to raise money for victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and Hurricane Harvey in Texas.