Turner targets center to take senator’s name

U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (c.), joined by Tom Long and Herbert Stupp, says he wants to rename the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge visitor center after former Sen. James L. Buckley. Photo by Steve Mosco
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Birdwatchers and animal enthusiasts have flocked to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge since 1972 — and now an elected official seeks to honor the man who helped establish it.

U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-Middle Village) announced legislation to rename the visitor center at the Wildlife Refuge after former state Sen. and wildlife advocate James L. Buckley.

“Today, I would like to announce that I plan to introduce a piece of legislation that will honor a man who was pivotal in making this park a reality, by naming the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center the ‘James L. Buckley Visitor Center,’” Turner said in front of the center in Broad Channel Tuesday. “Sen. Buckley was a proud American and a true public servant, serving at the highest levels in all three branches of government as well as the United States Navy.”

Following his election to the Senate in 1970, Buckley spent much of his time working with Sen. Jacob Javits on the legislation that would create the Gateway National Recreation Area, an area of more than 26,000 acres in the city that stretches to Sandy Hook, N.J.

“Besides his approach to the economy, another area Sen. Buckley was passionate about was environmental conservation and his love of bird watching,” said Turner, noting that the senator specifically mentioned the “wildlife preserve in Jamaica Bay” when speaking on behalf of the bill on the Senate floor on Oct. 14, 1972. “I am proud to have the opportunity to introduce this bill that will honor a man who not only served his state and his country with great pride, but who also had the vision to create this amazing park for us to enjoy and share with our future generations.”

According to Buckley’s six children, the senator was committed to wildlife protection, in particular the 325 species of birds that fly through the area as part of the Atlantic Migratory Flyway.

“This would be a wonderful and appropriate honor for our father,” his six children said in a family statement. “His love of nature, and birds in particular, is well-known, and helping create the preserve was one of the great privileges he had serving in the Senate.”

Buckley, the brother of National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr., was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1970 running on the Conservative Party ticket and served until 1977. He remains the only person nominated exclusively by the Conservative Party to have been elected to statewide office in New York, defeating Republican incumbent Charles Goodell and Democrat Richard Ottinger in a three-way race, according to National Review Online.

Area residents and community leaders Tom Long, the Queens Conservative Party chairman and a member of Community Board 14, and Herbert Stupp, the former commissioner at the city Department for the Aging, said the importance of the park could not be understated.

“It is fitting and overdue that our former senator is recognized for his leadership,” said Stupp. “I look forward to joining Congressman Turner when we unveil a new sign in Broad Channel, reading the ‘James L. Buckley Visitor Center’ at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Posted 10:21 am, June 14, 2012
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