$1.5MM Capital Comes on Top of Earlier $500,000 Allocation as City Councilmember

QUEENS, NY – At the Memorial Day Observance Ceremony this morning at Borough Hall, 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 Vietnam War – is now fully funded and ready to proceed.

Borough President 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 by then-Councilmember Katz in Fiscal Year 2008. With the necessary capital now fully 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.

“This latest allocation is a step toward the fulfillment of a promise made years ago,” said Borough President KATZ. “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.”

A total of 420 Queens residents lost their lives while serving in the Vietnam War, according to Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32, which represents Vietnam War veterans of Queens. The construction of a Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial has been long sought by members of Chapter 32. The late Pat Toro, the former president of Chapter 32 and a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War, was a vocal and persistent supporter of the project before he passed in 2014. Chapter 32 has followed Mr. Toro’s lead by continuing to seek the necessary funding.

“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, an Elmhurst native and the national president of the Vietnam Veterans of America. “The Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial will help address that historical wrong by honoring all Queens residents who gave their lives in that conflict. I want to thank Borough President Katz for fully funding this important memorial.”

“It is important that we have a memorial that honors all of the Queens residents who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam,” said MICHAEL O’KANE, president of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32. “Borough President Katz deserves to be commended for putting the funding in place that will make this much-needed memorial a reality.”

With full funding now secured and in place, NYC Parks, in conjunction with ideas and input from Chapter 32, will now commence with the design process for the Memorial. A timetable for the construction and completion of the Memorial will be determined upon completion of the design process.

The Memorial Day Observance Ceremony this morning at Borough Hall was held in honor of those who have served in our Armed Forces and those who have perished. Borough President Katz presented Citations of Honor to distinguished individual Queens veterans, including Lieutenant Colonel John W. Peterkin, United States Army (Ret.) (Veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War); Senior Airman Ryan Graham, United States Air Force (Veteran of the Iraq War); and Chapter 32. The event included a wreath-placement ceremony to honor all those whose lives were lost in service to our nation, and reflections on the Vietnam War delivered by Mr. Rowan. Photos available upon request.

Earlier this year, Borough President Melinda Katz and NYC Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) Commissioner Loree Sutton unveiled the newly opened DVS Satellite Office located inside Queens Borough Hall, fulfilling a promise issued at the beginning of the Borough President’s term. The Satellite Office in Queens is the first of its kind under DVS and is designed to enhance accessibility for veterans to DVS services without having to travel to the DVS main office in the Municipal Building in Lower Manhattan.

Elmhurst Park is the former location of the two KeySpan Newtown natural gas holders, known as the Elmhurst gas tanks, which were 275-feet in diameter and visible from the highway. In the late 1990s, the KeySpan Company (now National Grid) removed the tanks, and, in 2001, it began remediation of the site as per a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Voluntary Cleanup Agreement. In 2004, KeySpan agreed to sell the land to the City for $1, and it was officially transferred in 2005. The City launched a $20 million project in 2007 to transform the brownfield into a community open space for the public, unveiling it in 2011.

Follow Borough President Katz via @melindakatz or www.facebook.com/queensbpkatz