Efforts to place a new flagpole near the Richmond Hill library will culminate Saturday with the installation of a new monument honoring a local historical figure.
The Richmond Hill Historical Society spearheaded the initiative to fund a replacement flagpole for one removed in the 1930s because city officials wanted to widen local streets, society President Nancy Cataldi said. The new flagpole, to be erected on Flag Day, will be named for photographer and investigative journalist Jacob Riis.
Riis was an immigrant from Denmark who came to the United States in 1870. He took pictures in Richmond Hill and surrounding areas chronicling the conditions in slums and tenements throughout the city.
His friend President Theodore Roosevelt, came to Richmond Hill on several occasions to tour facilities Riis described. The pair together helped craft legislation based on Riis' discoveries and photographs that would later help improve conditions in some of the country's worst tenement homes.
Inspiration for the project came from historical society member Carl Ballenas who discovered an old news clipping from that era while doing research on Richmond Hill history.
"We have been raising money for more than a year," Cataldi explained. "The new flagpole will always be lit so the flag will never have to be taken down."
Cataldi also said construction costs for the new monument, including new uThe historical society received several small grants to help pay the costs while volunteers, area residents and public officials provided the remaining funds. Cataldi said budget cuts last year prevented an earlier attempt by the society to get a new flagpole with help from Queens Borough Library's Richmond Hill branch.
"(The flagpole) shows our patriotism and shows we believe in the flag," Cataldi said. "We worked very, very hard."
Local public officials including City Council members Dennis Gallagher (D-Middle Village) and Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) and state Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn had planned to attend the ceremony scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. The flagpole will be placed in the midst of red, white and blue flowers planted in honor of the national holiday.
"I am honored to be a part of something with such great historic and patriotic significance," Katz said. "This flagpole is sure to be a fixture in Richmond Hill for years to come."
Cataldi said hundreds of schoolchildren, veterans and Girl Scouts will also attend. Three winners of a historical society-sponsored essay contest will read their entries and each receive a $100 savings bond.
"We are also encouraging people in the area to decorate their homes because it is Flag Day," Cataldi said.
Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156
©2003 Community News Group
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