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James Trent: Civic leader founded Queens Farm Museum

TimesLedger Newspapers
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Jim Trent’s commitment to the betterment of his Bellerose community and to the borough as a whole makes him a true Queens hero.

Thanks to his perseverance for over 40 years as well as his tireless efforts to raise funds, a 47-acre tract of farm land — steeped in colonial history — has been rescued, preserved and reimagined for Queens’ families and visitors to enjoy. As the founder and president of the Queens County Farm Museum, Trent started out with a vision, which ultimately led to the Farm Museum’s success.

As one of New York City’s last working farms and the longest continually farmed site in New York state, the Farm Museum has developed into a multi-faceted entity boasting an orchard, planting fields, vineyard and herb garden, along with expanded education programs and special events for urban dwellers. It is a New York City Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to Trent, the story behind the Farm Museum’s founding started with the building of North Shore Towers on land zoned for lower-density construction. He said that was the catalyst to do something about the sale of the farm acres. “I did not want high-rises to spoil the suburban feel and character of eastern Queens, so the sale of the Creedmoor land had to be stopped,” he recalled.

Acting in his role as president of the Creedmoor Civic Association, Trent proposed that the property be used as a tree nursery to be operated by the city Department of Parks & Recreation. But that was before he learned that the farmhouse on the property went back to the 18th century and the farm itself could be traced to 1697.

“Then we switched gears and went for the creation of a farm museum,” he said.

Somehow Trent always finds time to continue his work as a civic leader and community advocate.

As treasurer of the Queens Civic Congress, an umbrella organization comprised of 100 or so civic and community groups, he works with leaders and elected officials on a series of hot-button issues.

Preserving Queens’ historical buildings and neighborhoods is, of course, near and dear to Trent’s heart. On his “to do” list: saving the Cornell Farm in Little Neck, which goes back 300 years; the director’s cottage of Creedmoor Psychiatric Center; and Fresh Meadows’ Klein Farm. Working with others, Team Trent is trying to landmark Broadway/F­lushing’s 1,600 homes and hoping to save the Triboro Tuberculosis Hospital, now known as the “T-Building,” at Queens Hospital Center.

It’s clear that wearing many hats and juggling numerous responsibilities is what he does best.

Earning no money for his efforts, Trent strives to make Queens a better place in which to live.

Updated 2:45 pm, May 27, 2016
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