The Juniper Park Civic Association was formed in 1938 as the Residents of Juniper Park Homes, the name of the homes being built in the area at the time. When Eliot Avenue was being formed and was linked to Woodhaven Boulevard on the East and Fresh Pond Road on West, it became the main roadway until the LIE emerged on our street scene. At the time a second group was formed called the Eliot Avenue Civic Association. In 1942 the two groups merged into what we know as to this day, The Juniper Park Civic Association.
A check of the JPCA history shows that in the early years there was the job of preserving what we had and setting goals of what we wanted for the future of our emerging community. Inherent in those goals and that future was a plan to have elected officials and city leaders pay attention to the JPCA when there were issues to be discussed.
The goal of the civic was stated clearly and concisely in the original Preamble to the JPCA By-Laws, which read:
Juniper Park Civic Association Organized 1938 Chartered 1942 Our Goals as written in our PREAMBLE:
Whereas, it is a recognized fact, that only by means of organized and collective action, can the residents in a community, record their opinions and request with governing bodies, that the mutual welfare of the community is best served by a close association of this community, united for our mutual welfare for civic betterment and adopt the following.
The following is a portion of our CONSTITUTION:
This organization shall be known as Juniper Park Civic Association Incorporated. This Civic shall promote and develop the close relationship of its members with a program of civic and social activities.
Fast forward to the present and it is obvious that the original members of the JPCA programmed the organization on the right road to success, designed to make the JPCA a force to be dealt with, replete with leaders who often stepped outside the box to achieve that success.
An example of the JPCA's ability to step outside the box was when it was concluded that the term limits stated in the By-Laws restricted the civic from attracting new talent into leadership roles. To correct the shortfall in leadership recruitment, in the early years of the new 21st century, term limits were revoked by a vote of the JPCA membership. Civic Presidents, their Officers and Executive Board were then permitted to serve past the previous two consecutive two-year term limits.
The Juniper Berry is the quarterly civic magazine, designed by JPCA President, Robert Holden, who provides the graphic talent to the publication and is a Professor at NY Technical College. It is written by neighborhood volunteers, many of who went to the local schools. From time to time graduate students will contact the JPCA asking for an opportunity to write articles for the Juniper Berry. They are always welcome and encouraged to write their articles. The topics are varied and many articles tell the history of the area. Circulation is “global” within the United States because many former residents continue to pay their dues to the JPCA so they may keep in touch by receiving the Juniper Berry in its quarterly mailings, which are also sent to the many JPCA members.
We have heard stories from former residents who visit other former residents in points north, east, west and south and spot the Juniper Berry on the coffee tables! They tell how they love the warmth of the connection of the “hometown” visual of a Juniper Berry!
While the JPCA has had many successes over the years we will highlight the ones where the work was the hardest and winning was the most gratifying.
Back in the 1960's when NYC was in bad financial condition and had no money to maintain our parks, Juniper Valley Park had become an eyesore of neglect. At one point, however, the City did manage to find some money and set the goal of building public swimming pools in many of our City parks. Juniper Park was at the top of the list but the JPCA leaders knew that with no adequate public transportation available and definitely very little police for protection, a public pool was totally inappropriate for Juniper Park and would be a nightmare for the residential area that surrounds the park. There was the fight, vicious at times, but the JPCA won, common sense prevailed and we avoided the catastrophe of a public swimming pool in Juniper Valley Park.
No question, a huge success story was when the JPCA was able to have the zip code changed to Middle Village 11379 from 74th Street and Eliot Avenue north to the LIE and east to Woodhaven Boulevard become Middle Village, a move that served to unite the area under one zip code. We still wonder where the few residents in opposition to the move hid on that cold winter night when we had our victory parade through the streets of “Middle Village” chanting, “Welcome to Middle Village!”
Another hard earned victory is located at the former Elmhurst Gas Tank site. The area was threatened by the possible building of another Home Depot and the JPCA stepped up and made the strong statement that we don't need more Home Depots we need a park. What seems like “magically” now, the City was able to acquire the land and a park is scheduled at the site.
COP 104 was formed by the JPCA when it became apparent that the neighborhood did not have adequate access to the police. COP 104 has been a success story because the JPCA was able to have the newly formed organization agree to meet in the different communities within the 104 Precinct boundaries thus giving access to the police to many who were previously alienated.
Let's not forget the Cross Harbor project with hundreds of additional trucks earmarked for our residential streets. Again, the force of the JPCA, accompanied by the newly formed Middle Village/Maspeth Task Force was the deciding factor in killing that horrendous idea with all its negative environmental impact problems of thousands of more trucks on our roads.
Then there was the downzoning of the Middle Village/Maspeth area, a big assignment that the JPCA took on as we entered the 21st Century. We had to deal with an underfunded Department of City Planning and we, community volunteers, had to go door to door bringing the housing stock of the neighborhood up to date so City Planning could do its job. Talk about a “cost effective” labor force for the city, nothing is easy!
With the hard work of our wonderful neighborhood volunteers and contributions from All Faiths Cemetery, Pullis Cemetery has been rehabilitated into a respectful burial site of the Pullis family, the family who occupied the home on the farm immediately adjacent to Juniper Park near Dry Harbor Road.
One of our biggest disappointments was the dismantling of the historic St. Savior's Church located in Maspeth. Never giving up, the JPCA managed to collect all the wood from the church destruction and have it stored away for rebuilding on another site yet to be determined. This is a big job but not unusual because there is documented history of other landmark buildings being relocated at other locations throughout NYC.
The Juniper Park Conservancy has been established and city moneys channel through this organization to help keep Juniper Park a beautiful oasis of activity for everyone from passive recreation to those who love sports.
The Juniper Juniors was formed in the year 2000 and hopefully we will encourage our youth to volunteer to do good things for the community. The Juniper Juniors will set that example.
The JPCA sponsors the summer concert series in Juniper Valley Park, a popular musical extravaganza that the residents look forward to every summer.
There are many more accomplishments achieved by the Juniper Park Civic Association but space limitations preclude them from being listed in this article.
Hopefully our great community will continue to thrive, always cloaked in the dedication and hard work from the legacy of our JPCA past leaders. Eventually we live long enough to become the trailblazers for future generations.