The year 2003 has been a banner one for the Juniper Park Civic Association. We had the zip code victory in January and now in November we have a real David and Goliath story to tell our children and grandchildren about the Keyspan 6 acre site on Grand Avenue and 79th Street in Elmhurst. We took on the big utility company, the big box super store, and developers with deep pockets and the little guy won!!! The lesson here – you just don’t ever give up despite adversity and indifference from other community leaders.
Think about it, with the clock ticking quickly towards December 31, 2003 the deadline for the Big Box contract for a dreaded Home Depot to become a reality, responding to the community, Mayor Bloomberg steps into the picture. Like a knight in shining armor, within a few days, he announces that Keyspan will sell the land to the city for use as a park! Does it get any better?
Anyone attending the Task Force meeting we had in October 2003 at PS 58 came away depressed after hearing the speeches of some of our elected officials. The only two who came forward with any encouraging hope were Councilman Dennis Gallagher and former Councilman Tom Ognibene. We can’t thank them enough for helping with the effort. Isn’t that what leaders are supposed to do? With all due credit to our elected officials they did eventually step up in a rage, demanding Keyspan do the right thing for the community. We thank them all for their efforts on our behalf.
If you read the Queens Ledger newspaper you would have to ask “what planet were they on?” Their misguided editor kept writing about the big obstacle of ego problems with the participants. He kept asking everyone to leave their ego at the door and talk.
Well, how do you talk to people who felt from the beginning that the Keyspan contract with the Mattone group was a done deal? How do you talk to people who were grateful with the crumbs Keyspan was willing to give back to the community?
If we listened to the Queens Ledger we would have a huge mall, 1,200 more cars and trucks and tons additional pollution.
Thankfully, the other weekly newspapers in the area covered the Keyspan issue with class and stood by the community. They helped tremendously with the effort.
The JPCA never felt there was no hope and therein lies the difference between us and the rest of the area. It speaks to the legacy from our predecessors of persistence and the American spirit of anything can be done if you work hard enough.
It goes without saying but special thanks to Bob Holden, our President. You have to agree that he goes after what he wants like a pitbull. Throughout this ordeal he was the catalyst, in everyone’s face, pressing all the buttons and lighting all the fires. I don’t ever want to be his adversary!
I like to think that somewhere in heaven
there is a civic association and when I think of a JPCA Executive Board Emeritus I see President Mary Cummins, with all due respect, another pitbull (!), looking down on us saying, “the JPCA legacy is safe, the kids have learned their lesson well, we can rest.” Mary’s biggest speech was always, “You stay in their face until they don’t want to look at you anymore.” I guess that speaks to the old squeaky wheel concept.
Let’s do a snapshot of some of the victories over the years which are part of the JPCA legacy that we will pass on to our kids. All of these achievements where hard fought battles done by volunteers whose only reward is success at having preserved their neighborhoods. This is only a partial list of all the accomplishments and each one represents a volunteer spending less time with their family and loved ones so that they could fight these battles. We thank them all, and I particularly thank my Mom and Dad, Mary and Tom Pizzillo. They sure did a good job of instilling the civic spirit in me and trust me, like any kid, I never let them know, “I get it!” They know now!