Friday, June 3, 2016

Borough President Melinda Katz brings Vietnam Memorial home to Queens

Borough president commits $1.5M to build monument in Elmhurst Park
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Posted: Thursday, June 2, 2016 10:30 am | Updated: 12:03 pm, Thu Jun 2, 2016.
The Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial is finally ready to carry out it’s mission.
Borough President Melinda Katz announced at the Memorial Day Observance Ceremony at Borough Hall last Thursday that the project is now fully funded and ready to start construction.
It will be the first boroughwide memorial to honor the 420 Queens residents who lost their lives while serving in the Vietnam War.
The project will cost $2 million in total. In fiscal year 2008 Katz, who was then on the City Council, secured $500,000 in funding for the project. Another $1.5 million was allocated by Katz from her FY 2017 discretionary capital funding, a budget that kicks in on July 1. Now design and construction can begin.
“This latest allocation is a step toward the fulfillment of a promise made years ago,” Katz said. “More veterans call Queens home than any other borough, and the Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial will be a fitting and dignified tribute to those who served.”
The memorial will be located in the northwest corner of Elmhurst Park, a 6.22-acre former brownfield turned green space on 79th Street between Grand Avenue and 57th Avenue in Elmhurst.
The construction of the memorial has been long sought by members of Queens’ Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32, who have been pushing for the memorial since 2002 and originally wanted it to be done in 2008.
Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said he is “very happy to see this go forward.
“Elmhurst Park is a beautiful park and a very appropriate place to pay honor to our veterans,” Dromm said. “I’m thankful that Borough President Katz pushed this forward.”
He also congratulated all the veteran advocacy groups that worked with Katz on the project.
“They all work very hard,” Dromm said.
The late Pat Toro, the former president of Chapter 32 and a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War, was a persistent supporter of the project. He lost his battle with cancer caused by Agent Orange exposure in the war in 2014.
“The members of our country’s Armed Forces who served in the Vietnam War sacrificed so much on behalf of their country, yet at the time they were not given appropriate recognition,”John Rowan, an Elmhurst native and the national president of the Vietam Veterans of America, said. “The Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial will help address that historical wrong by honoring all Queens residents who gave their lives in that conflict. I want to thank Borough President Katz for fully funding this important memorial.”
Michael O’Kane, president of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32, said he has a general idea of what the memorial will look like. He’s gotten ideas from Chapter 32 members but ultimately it will be up to the city Parks Department to finalize the design.
“We want there to be a wall with the names of the deceased, and we want there to be benches in front of it, but that’s not finalized,” O’Kane said.
Paul Narson, the former president of Chapter 32, previously mentioned that they want the memorial to have two semicircles and a flagpole in the middle along with the walls with the names of the deceased from Queens.
“The Queens borough president, bless her, gave us $1.5 million yesterday,” O’Kane said. “She’s there for veterans.”
O’Kane also said that there is no set begin date for construction or completion — he just hopes that the memorial will be done within two to three years and that Vietnam veterans will be alive to see it.
“It’s a long time coming and we deserve it,” O’Kane said. “Queens deserves it and the family of the deceased deserve it.”
“The vision for a physical, boroughwide memorial was first forged by our own veterans who wanted to memorialize the sacrifices made by hundreds of Queens residents and their families during what was a tumultuous period in our nation’s history,” Katz said. “Freedom is not free, and with the memorial, their service will be appropriately recognized and remembered for generations to come.”

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