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Neighbor to Neighbor: Cornucopia Society reaps honors for work in parks

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Were you there, as I was, the day spring ran after Old Man Winter, throwing his good-bye kisses? He surprised us all by blowing back so many confetti-like wet, sloppy kisses that spring shared them with all of us.

At first glance, most would say that the old boy had not been too kind to us during the winter of 2003/2004, but we’ll appreciate his legacy in the hot summer if we don’t have to deal with a 2004 drought again in Queens. He promises to see us again later in the year.

In the meantime, Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe invited a few small groups of his department’s volunteers, including Rosedale’s Cornucopia Society, to be honored for their loyal devotion in maintaining the parks they have adopted. The event was held March 18 in the Arsenal in Central Park. The Cornucopia Society’s adopted green spaces include Rosedale’s Veteran’s Square, Vietnam Square, Laurelton, Brookville and Idlewild parks.

The society’s president, Fred Kress, accepted the award on behalf of his organization, while other volunteers, including Cornucopia Society Vice President Joe Locoteta, looked on and applauded with pride. Unfortunately, board member Bryan Korman was unable to attend.

Benepe got his first official job in parks when he was 15. He had a summer job mopping up the locker room at the Szold Pool on East 10th Street and picking up beer cans in East River Park. After college he became a park ranger. Now, as park commissioner, he oversees the largest urban park system in the nation.

From the brief, extremely interesting history of the park system he related to us as well as his views of things to come, we can be sure he knows what he is doing. All of us want him to succeed, and as volunteers, we hope many other residents and business people will participate with contributions of dollars, work hours or creative suggestions.

Our parks and green spaces are vital to our communities, and we hope everyone will take advantage of the opportunities they offer for spiritual and physical renewal. We would love to see young people, especially, substituting working in parks (as Benepe did) for associating with those who are aimless or worse.

Beside work projects, there are organized recreation projects that teach good health and fitness habits that will benefit them throughout their lives. It’s My Park Day is scheduled for May 15. When you see a group working in your park, we hope you’ll go over and say hi and become a volunteer.

Even before that, before our local trees begin to leaf, we hope you will either inspect them yourself or have someone from the Department of Agriculture do so in an effort to eliminate the dreaded Asian long-horned beetle.

Our city has already lost about 6,000 trees in an effort to prevent further infestation of this tree-killing pest. If you find any holes that are the size and shape of a dime, please notify the Department of Parks at 1-800-201-PARK or call 311.

On a side note, in my March 18 column on Black History Month, Jack Thompson’s name was omitted from the list of attendees at an event held in Jamaica to honor singer, actor, activist and athlete Paul Robeson. Jack is the president of the Cambria Heights Civic Association and senior member of the Jamaica Postal Advisory Council. Sorry, Jack.

During that same week, on March 19, the former postmaster of the Jamaica branch of the United States Postal Service, Mr. Gino Gentilini, gave a brief history of the USPS for the Jamaica post office’s 70th anniversary celebration. The event was hosted by U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) and Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing), who is also president of the New York City Central Labor Council.

In his brief speech, Meeks noted that it is time for each and every one of us to say thank you to all of the hard-working postal employees who are part of the system that makes sure we receive our mail regularly. He is right, of course.

Those saluted that day were the local postal service unions, including the American Postal Workers Union, Queens Area Local 1022; National Association of Letter Carriers, branch 562, Jamaica, N.Y. Letter Carriers; National Postal Mail-Handlers Union, Local 300, New York state branch; National Association of Postal Supervisors, branch 85; Gentilini; and Clarence Irving Sr., chairman and founder of the Black American Heritage Foundation.

Others featured in the special 70th birthday celebration were Thomas Moran, Color Guard; Crystal Holmes, who sang “The Star Spangled Banner” beautifully; the Rev. Patrick O’Connor, who gave the invocation; Susan Lee, who sang her special version of “My Funny Valentine”; Postmaster James Burns, who made acknowledgments; and the Rev. Mark Kellar, who gave the benediction.

Congratulations to all these folks and the celebration’s planning committee: Burns, Gloria Baldwin, Jeanne Bouie, Frank Fazio, Bill Fleming, Jeff Gottlieb, Maribel Marcus and Ida Smith. Well done — and thank you all.

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