On the eve of Memorial Day weekend, Borough President Melinda Katz announced that the long-awaited Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial project, the first boroughwide memorial to honor all Queens residents who died while serving in the southeast Asian conflict is now fully funded and ready to proceed. The memorial will be constructed where the iconic Elmhurst gas tanks once stood.
Katz’s recent $1.5 million allocation from her fiscal year 2017 discretionary capital funds comes on top of the $500,000 in funding first secured when she was a city councilwoman back in 2008. Katz made the announcement during the annual Memorial Day Observance Ceremony last Thursday at Borough Hall.
“This latest allocation is a step towards fulfillment of a promise made years ago,” Katz said. “More veterans call Queens home than any other borough, and the Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial will be a fitting and dignified tribute to those who served. The vision for a physical, boroughwide memorial was first forged by our own veterans who wanted to memorialize the sacrifices made by hundreds of Queens residents and their families during what was a tumultuous period in our nation’s history. Freedom is not free, and with the memorial, their service will be appropriately recognized and remembered for generations to come.”
With the necessary capital now in place, work can begin on the design and construction of the $2 million project, which will be located in the northwest corner of Elmhurst Park, a 6.22 acre former brownfield turned greenspace on 79th Street between Grand Avenue and 57th Avenue in Elmhurst. In the late 1990, the Keyspan Company removed the tanks and in 2001, it began remediation of the site before selling the land to the city for $1 in 2014.
“The members of our country’s Armed Forces who served in the Vietnam War sacrificed so much on behalf of their country, yet at the time they were not given appropriate recognition,” said John Rowan, the Vietnam Veterans of America president and an Elmhurst native. “The Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial will help address that historical wrong by honoring all Queens residents who gave their lives in that conflict.”
A total of 420 Queens residents lost their lives while serving in the Vietnam War, according to the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32, which represents Vietnam War veterans of Queens. The late Pat Toro, the former president of Chapter 32 and a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, was a vocal and persistent supporter of the conflict before he died from an Agent Orange-related illness in 2014.
“Pat Toro fought hard for this before he died of blood cancer from Agent Orange, it’s killing all of us,” current VVA Chapter 32 President Michael O’Kane, of Glendale, said. “I haven’t met anyone I served with who isn’t sick from Agent Orange. We’re losing 750 veterans a day, in fact, I heard just a few weeks ago that we passed a milestone that more veterans have died after the war than during the war. That’s why I want this memorial to go up soon. I hope to see it in my lifetime.”
There is no timetable set for when the memorial will be constructed.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr
©2016 Community News Group
By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:
You agree that you, and not TimesLedger.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to TimesLedger.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.