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Addabbo marks springtime with Sept. 11 daffodil bloom

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Borough and city officials joined residents of South Ozone Park and Ozone Park Friday at Lefferts Playground to celebrate the "blooming" of the Daffodil Project - a living memorial for victims of Sept. 11, 2001.

City Councilman Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and city Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe spoke at a podium in front of hundreds of bright yellow daffodils and talked about the significance of the commemorative program. Benepe, along with Lynden Miller, mother of City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan), came up with the idea for the project, which they hope will attract more visitors to the city's parks.

"There is no greater sound in the world than to hear a child laugh," Addabbo told the group of 40 residents gathered at the park at North Conduit Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard. "That's what our parks are all about."

Addabbo, chairman of the City Council's first independent committee on parks, said the daffodils have helped bring new life to Lefferts Park, which opened two years ago after five years of teetering on the brink of closure. He said the Daffodil Project will only encourage more people to use the facility in South Ozone Park and serve as a timeless honorarium to people who died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

"As these daffodils grow, let's just hope our love for parks grows as well," Addabbo said.

Benepe said the project is a partnership between the city and the private New Yorkers for Parks, an advocacy group of which Miller is a member that supports public parks throughout the city.

Benepesaid he got in touch with Miller, who helped him secure 500,000 daffodil bulbs from a private nursery in Holland.

The city of Rotterdam then donated another 500,000 bulbs to New York City, bringing the number of daffodils planted by10,000 volunteers in 2001 to 1 million, Benepe said. An additional 1 million bulbs were planted in 2002, he said.

"We were all caught in a terrible depression and we were trying to figure out what to do," Benepe said of the weeks following the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center. "Yellow has become the color of remembrance in our culture."

The commissioner said the daffodils and their yellow hue also serve to remind the public of American troops fighting the war in Iraq, similar to the way tying yellow ribbons around trees serves as a reminder.

The project, which initially did not cost the city anything, has now been helped by a $300,000 portion of a $1.4 million donation from the estate of Minnesota handyman Joseph Temeczko, Benepe said.

The daffodils were sent to New York City via large cargo ships with multiple, individual containers holding the bulbs, Benepe said. The initial shipments arrived in the city only two days before they were to be planted, complicating the logistics for planting the flowers.

"One of the best things to happen to New York City was these daffodils because long after we're gone, they'll still be here," Benepe said.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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