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Boro historian honored for cemetery work

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For his work, Cogan was honored in Manhattan last Thursday with the lifetime achievement Mickey Murphy Award by the Historic Districts Council as part of its annual Grassroots Preservation Awards.

"I think the HDC is the elite preservation organization, the creme de la creme," said Cogan, who has been Queens' historian since 2000. "It's an honor to receive this."

Cogan's most prominent preservation work has been with cemeteries, and he worked with the Queens Historical Society to save the landmarked Cornell Cemetery in Far Rockaway from destruction. He is now working to preserve a number of other burial grounds in Queens.

"People don't really consider them, but these burial sites are in some cases the most historic reminders," said Simeon Bankoff, the executive director of HDC. "By talking about the cemeteries I think Stanley has done a really great service."

In the garden courtyard of Manhattan's St. Mark's Church In-the-Bowery, eight organizations and individuals received recognition for their local-level activities on behalf of community preservation from the HDC, a preservation non-profit organization.

The Douglaston/Little Neck Historical Society also received a Grassroots Preservation Award for its ongoing efforts to collect historic documents on the physical and social history of the area.

"We've scoured Ebay," the auction Web site, for items related to the neighborhood, said Bill Sievers, a vice president of the society.

The society was also lauded for its recent activism to have a proposed historic district in Douglaston Hill designated by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission. The initial application to the LPC was denied, but after intense rallying the commission reversed its denial and has calendared the society's application and will soon make a final decision.

Recently, one distinctive home called the "White House" in the Douglaston Hill neighborhood was allegedly being renovated by the owner, Steve Chai, without proper permits. Neighbors feared the construction would lead to the demolition of the house, and the society successfully called on local lawmakers to obtain a stop work order from the Department of Buildings, which prevents any further work being done until Chai applies for the appropriate permits.

The society's members are "just brilliant," Bankoff said. "They are tough and smart and well-organized and incredibly determined. Now with all their great work with the Douglaston Hill historic district, it's just fantastic. They're not taking no for an answer."

The award "is the culmination of a lot of work over a lot of years," said Stuart Hersh, a founding member and trustee of the society, "or rather, a penultimate culmination. The true culmination is the designation of the district."

When the Douglaston/Little Neck Historical Society took the stage to receive the award, supporting members in the audience hoisted signs they have used in recent rallies: Chizuko Sievers waved a "We Love 'This Old House'" poster and Roma Arcidiacono held up a "Vultures Go Home" poster.

Sievers and Kevin Wolfe, another vice president of the society, brought the now-familiar placard that read, "Stop the destruction of Historic Douglaston."

"There are a hundred lawns in Douglaston Hill that feature this sign," Sievers said. He glanced at Robert Tierney, the chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission who was standing to the side of the stage. "It's imposing to see how many people support not only to stop the destruction but also preserve the history."

Other awardees included the Brooklyn Heights Association, three preservationists who worked to designate the Thomson Meter Building in Brooklyn, Leo J. Blackman Architects, the Staten Island Mud Lane Society for the Renaissance of Stapleton, state Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) and The Staten Island Advance.

Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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