QUEENS BREAKS GROUND ON NEW VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL

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QUEENS, NY – Borough President Melinda Katz, the New York City Parks Department, Queens veterans, elected officials and community leaders together broke ground today on the Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the first boroughwide memorial to honor all Queens residents who were either killed in action while serving in the Vietnam War, or served in the war and are listed as “Missing in Action”. The groundbreaking ceremony was held in Elmhurst Park on the site where the memorial will be constructed. It is slated for completion in Fall 2019.

Construction of the memorial has been long sought after by Queens veterans who have wanted a boroughwide memorial to recognize the sacrifices made by hundreds of Queens residents and their families during the Vietnam War. The memorial will now become a reality thanks to $2.85 million in funding secured by Borough President Katz.

“To our veterans of the Vietnam War, we know the sacrifices you made, the sacrifices your families made. The Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial will help ensure generations never forget, and remind our borough, city and nation to remain ever grateful,” said Borough President KATZ. “It’s been 10 years since the Pat Toro first dreamed up the idea for a Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and now that dream will soon become reality. Because of his leadership and that of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32, the service members who made the ultimate sacrifice during and as a result of that conflict will have a fitting and dignified tribute, right here in the borough they proudly called ‘home’.”

The late Pat Toro, the former president of Chapter 32 and a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War, was a vocal and persistent supporter of the project before he passed away in 2014. Chapter 32 has followed Mr. Toro’s lead by continuing to seek the necessary funding.

“We are elated to celebrate the start of construction on this memorial, which is the product of years of collaboration between Parks, Borough President Katz, and local veterans,” said NYC Parks Queens Commissioner DOROTHY LEWANDOWSKI. “The result is a thoughtful design that pays tribute to our borough’s heroes, and provides a physical space for contemplation and community gathering.”

“In 2008 Pat Toro had an idea for one central memorial for all of the Queens war dead,” said MICHAEL O’KANE, President of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32. “Borough President Melinda Katz was the first to sign on and offer support for this project. Without her support this wouldn’t have gotten done.  Chapter 32 of the Vietnam Veteran of America offers our thanks for her backing and support.”

Also present and speaking at the ceremony were State Senators Joseph Addabbo, Jr. and Toby Ann Stavisky, Assemblymembers Brian Barnwell and Michael DenDekker, City Councilmember Robert Holden and State Senator-elect John Liu.

Borough President Katz allocated $1.5 million in capital funding to the project as Borough President in Fiscal Year 2017 and an additional $800,000 in Fiscal Year 2018. These allocations came on top of the $550,000 secured in Fiscal Year 2008 by then-City Councilmember Katz. The combined total of $2.85 million is enough to fully fund the design and construction of the Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The new memorial will be located in the northwest corner of Elmhurst Park, a 6.22 acre space located off 79th Street between Grand Avenue and 57th Avenue in Elmhurst. It was designed by NYC Parks in consultation with the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32. It is intended to be a contemplative space that honors those Queens residents who lost their lives during the Vietnam War.

Two semi-circular granite walls will flank the space. One will bear the name of the memorial, the five crests of the military and the Vietnam Service Medal, which is awarded to all military members who served in the Vietnam War. On the inside of this wall will be an etching of bamboo, which represents a common element of the Vietnam War.

The second wall will offer a history of the Vietnam War that will list key events and dates. This wall will also bear the names of Queens residents who served in the Vietnam War who were either killed in action or are listed as missing.

The name of fallen will be placed strategically so that they receive sun most of the day. The granite walls, as well as the existing flagpole, will both be illuminated at night. There will be also be a map of Vietnam on the floor of the memorial that will depict key Vietnam War locations.

A separate plaque will also be installed that will recognize Pat Toro and fellow Vietnam War veterans from Queens who died here at home due to effects of the war, such as exposure to Agent Orange.

Elmhurst Park is the former location of two KeySpan Newtown natural gas holders, known as the Elmhurst gas tanks, that were 275-feet in diameter and visible from the nearby Long Island Expressway. In the late 1990s, the KeySpan Company (now National Grid) removed the tanks, and, in 2001, it began remediation of the site as per a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Voluntary Cleanup Agreement. In 2004, KeySpan agreed to sell the land to the City for $1, and it was officially transferred in 2005. The City launched a $20 million project in 2007 to transform the brownfield into a community open space for the public, unveiling it in 2011.

Photos from today’s groundbreaking are now available at www.flickr.com/melindakatz.