City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) visited Elmhurst Memorial Hall last week to oppose various city fees levied on veterans organizations.
“We must stand up and fight for our veterans,” the councilman said.
Dromm announced his new legislation to do away with fees for city Fire Department permits, inspections and performance tests at the hall at 88-24 43rd Ave. in Elmhurst along with representatives of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Catholic War Veterans last Thursday, the day before Veterans Day.
Tom McKenzie, president of the Elmhurst Memorial League, which owns the former American Legion Hall, also came out in support of doing away with the fees, saying the hall already pays thousands in liability insurance.
“It’s not a burden to that degree, but it does hurt,” McKenzie said of the fees.
For example, McKenzie says his hall pays $930 for an annual assembly fee that is paid to the FDNY upon its annual reinspection. McKenzie said that while the league can afford it because it has a trust fund and gets donations from churches that use the hall, McKenzie said the fees have been high enough that some veterans organizations in the neighborhood have had to close down.
“They literally sold their buildings off,” McKenzie said.
Dromm and McKenzie argued that levying fees on the veterans organizations may be in violation of state law, which prohibits fees on Soldiers’ Monument Corps., which include memorial halls and buildings.
“We shouldn’t be balancing our city budget on the backs of our veterans,” Dromm said.
McKenzie said the hall has been active since 1920. Its displays include a memorial to World War II veterans from Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, a flag from Pearl Harbor and tarps of the American flag, one with the names of those who died Sept. 11, 2011, and one with firefighters, police and Port Authority workers who died responding to the attack.
“We sent people off to every war this nation has had,” McKenzie said.
He said the league also provides assistance to families of veterans who have been killed, and with the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East he hopes the hall will be able to continue assisting veterans.
“I hope this building stays up another 85 years in their memory,” McKenzie said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cn
©2011 Community News Group
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