Board 5 Praises Holden,
By Thomas Cogan
Community Board 5 had its November meeting four days after a highly publicized ceremony to welcome the establishment of a park at the site of the old Elmhurst gas tanks on Grand Avenue. Politicians, notably City Councilmember Dennis Gallagher, took due credit for their part in seeing the park movement through. At the Board 5 meeting, however, several members believed they should go to the roots of the movement and praise the person they called most responsible for getting it started: Bob Holden, board member and president of the Juniper Park Civic Association. "If not for him, it’d be a Home Depot, with traffic jamming our streets," said one member. She also said that Holden "lit fires, figuratively speaking, in the community," taking what seemed a done deal and reducing it to defeat, while at the same time advancing the park campaign to victory.
Holden himself said, "Just being alive when this happened is amazing," matching the statement of Dennis Dean, Congressmember Joseph Crowley’s representative at the meeting, who described the November 8 ceremony as "one of the proudest of my life." Holden had much praise for the many people who supported the park drive, such as former Councilmember Thomas Ognibene, who made several contacts for him and the group trying to establish a park. At the same time, Holden expressed a good deal of scorn for doubters who told them they could not fight the combination of developer Joe Mattone, Home Depot, which wanted to build another of its big box stores where the tanks once stood, and KeySpan, owner of the property and a party seemingly inclined to favor Mattone and Home Depot. Holden knew the park people had reached a critical point last year when Mattone offered them a compromise that would give them some territory that Home Depot could live without. They turned it down, telling Mattone, "We want it all." In the end, they got it.
Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri had praise for Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his eventual support and said he’d like to invite him to a meeting. But Board Member Ray Nunziata brought the issue back to the local level when he called for a standing ovation for Holden, which followed immediately.
District Manager Gary Giordano announced that 6,000 new alternate parking signs are to be installed in the Board 5 area. He then turned to a favorite topic, graffiti cleanup by the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council. He said that since July 1, a total of 300 sites within Board 5 have been cleaned by this group, perhaps most notably the Eliot Avenue Bridge over the Long Island Rail Road tracks. Regarding the group’s activities of the last four months, Giordano said, "The accomplishment is nothing short of astounding."
When committee reports were made, Holden, in his capacity as head of the public safety committee, was doubtless relieved to announce that at last the 104th Police Precinct telephone system is being replaced in its entirety. The new system should be in operation on November 19; many area residents have doubted the old system was in operation at all. John Schell of the transportation committee mentioned the coming overhaul of the Wyckoff train station at Myrtle Avenue, a project that should occupy the community for years to come. David Valovage of the parks committee reported rejection of the move to have the small park area beside the Long Island Expressway, at the junction of Borden Avenue, Jay Avenue and Hamilton Place, renamed after T/Sgt. Thomas Davey, a Maspeth resident killed in World War II. The appeal for the renaming was turned down by the Parks Department in a letter to Valovage that contained no comment about the decision. The current name, Cowbird Triangle, is thus retained. Long named Hamilton Triangle, after Alexander Hamilton, a Founding Father whose name also appears on Hamilton Place, the park area was renamed Cowbird Triangle in the 1990s by then Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, who thought Borden Avenue brought to mind cows and Jay Avenue birds. Stern not only renamed the park area, but also had posted a sign full of ornithological information about cowbirds. Valovage and others said they would keep the issue alive.
There was happier news in the report that the large red wall fronting the park and playground located between the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Myrtle Avenue near 80th Street will be coming down. The wall has been in place longer than most can recall but arouses no sentimentality; rather, it is considered an eyesore that blocks a view of the playground from Myrtle Avenue. The razing of the wall and consequent reconstruction of the park and playground should begin by mid-2004.