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The Civic Scene: Civic leader honored at biennial luncheon

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Jim Trent, a longtime resident of Bellerose, has been honored at the 2002 Queens Civic Congress (QCC) by proclamations at the biennial Luncheon/Convention at Antun’s Caterers in Queens Village. A large group of civic association leaders and legislators watched as Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, state Sen. Frank Padavan and Assemblyman Mark Weprin presented Trent proclamations from Queens County, the state Senate and the state Assembly .

I have known Trent for decades. When he was a leader of the Eastern Queens Civic Council and president of the Creedmoor Civic Association I worked with him on mutual civic matters. It is interesting that the Eastern Queens Civic Council, an umbrella group of civic associations, held their meetings in the old Queens Colonial Farm Museum which he and his mother helped preserve in 1975. It was interesting to sit there with an old stone fireplace on one side and the old walls which were being preserved.

The 47-acre farm almost was auctioned until Trent and his fellow civic leaders preserved it for our use today. He fought for the farm but also for the community as a whole. I remember one instance about 25 years ago when his civic interest almost put the farmhouse in jeopardy. Many civic association leaders in Queens, and other areas downstate and upstate had formed a group called the Statewide Coalition Against Reassessment. We had held some downstate meetings in the old farmhouse parlor. Then one of the political leaders, who wanted full value assessment, discovered we were meeting there and threatened Trent with a cut in state funding for the farm. We found other places to meet and with the help of Sen. Padavan we held our final SCAR meeting in a conference room in Creedmoor Hospital. We had the last laugh when we prevented certain politicians from implementing 100 percent Full Value Assessment on our homes.

I knew some of Trent’s activities but not all of them. He is vice president of the joint Bellerose Business Development Corporation, board vice president of the Poppenhusen Institute, a board member of the Metropolitan Historic Structures Organization, treasurer of the Queens Civic Congress and a member of the Task Force to preserve the Klein Farm in Fresh Meadows. We are trying to find a land trust that will buy the Klein Farm, which then can be donated to the city and run by the Colonial Farm.

Trent brought a rich background to his volunteer civic activities. He had studied landscape architecture at the University of Georgia and eventually joined the city Department of Public Works. Thirty three years later (last year) when he retired, he was the chief of the professional contracts section of the City Department of Design and Construction. One of his recent civic activities as a member of the Queens Civic Congress was to oppose the V train. Although he felt the MTA is great, he could not support the V train because he had to change his bus and train four times to reach his office in Long Island City.

The keynote speech was given by Congressman Joseph Crowley. He commented that New York City has not recovered from Sept. 11. He talked about what has to be done to make the city better. We need more green spaces. He talked about a $5 million grant to study the noise level from LaGuardia Airport. I like his comment, “It may never be a good neighbor but we have to make it a better neighbor.” Sounds like other community facilities. I was happy to see many of our legislators at the luncheon. I sat with Councilman David Weprin and his assistant Jeff Gottlieb.

One sad note was the announcement by QCC President Sean Walsh that Margo Hill has suddenly passed away. Hill had represented the South Ozone Park Civic Association. She had only been involved with the QCC for a few years but had made her voice heard about her opposition to the Air Train’s not having any stops in southeast Queens and thus not helping the community enough.

GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK

Finally after several years of discussion and negotiation, the federal government has announced it will give Governors Island back to New York State. President Bush and Mayor Bloomberg recently toured the island with a number of dignitaries and CUNY college students who will benefit from the transfer. I remember taking the ferry to Governors Island years ago when the U.S. Army had a film library there. They lent me films for my social studies classes. It was a very picturesque place. There is talk that it also could be used as a public park with perhaps a conference center and a hotel. I hope that things happen quickly and don’t drag out, as happened in Arverne, Rockaway, where most of this valuable property has been left vacant for decades. Anything that brings in revenue to our city is worthwhile.

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