This park, located in the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood, is named in honor of Carl E. Clemens (1908-1989), a community leader and former owner of the newspaper The Ridgewood Times.
Born in Connecticut, Clemens’s family moved to Ridgewood, Queens when he was young. Clemens’s parents died when he was a child, and he was raised by his aunt. His aunt, worried that Carl’s small frame would prevent him from succeeding in a more traditional venue, enrolled him in the Queensboro Business Institute to learn typing and bookkeeping. The school, located in the The Ridgewood Times building, had difficulty paying its rent, and to help his school, Clemens began volunteering for the newspaper at the age of 16. He proved himself invaluable to the paper, and was soon hired by George Schubel, the paper’s founder, as a writer and radio announcer.
Schubel founded The Ridgewood Times, which throughout its history has been dedicated to community affairs, in 1908. Schubel was fascinated by the prospects of the revolutionary medium of radio, and in 1920, he expanded the newspaper to include the new station WHN. At the radio station, Clemens announced sports, weather, and news. The station’s lack of success nearly bankrupted the paper, and eventually Schubel sold WHN to Loew’s Theaters.
During the Depression, the paper suffered fiscally, and in 1933, Clemens bought a portion, becoming one of three new owners of the corporation. He became sole owner of the paper in 1955, and worked as owner and publisher until he retired in 1982. Clemens’s involvement with The Times contributed to its extensive collaboration with civic groups to improve libraries, schools, senior centers, and other community establishments. The paper was renamed The Times Newsweekly in 1989.
In addition to his publishing work, Clemens contributed to the Queens community in his personal life, and in 1975 joined with a group of residents to form the Greater Ridgewood Historical Society. Their primary goal, to save an abandoned farmhouse that dated to the 1600s, was not only attained through their efforts but expanded: Onderdonk Farmhouse, located at Flushing and Onderdonk Avenues, is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been dedicated as a cultural museum. Clemens was also a vocal proponent of community boards, and donated meeting space in The Ridgewood Times building for the boards to congregate. In the late 1960s, Mayor John Lindsay named Clemens an honorary commissioner of public events.
The City acquired this property in 1914 by condemnation for street purposes. At that time, the Board of Estimate requested that jurisdiction of the property be transferred to Parks and consent was granted in letter by Acting Borough President Frank Sullivan for the purpose of enabling the Citizen’s Association to erect a monument to the veterans of World War I. Jurisdiction was transferred in 1919 without a monument. Neighborhood residents, witnessing how the community’s landlords would congregate at the triangle to complain about the high cost of owning a building, had unofficially called the park “Landlord Square.” In 1936, the Board of Aldermen submitted a resolution to name the park “Times Triangle,” after the Ridgewood Times building across the street. In 1985, Mayor Ed Koch renamed the area Carl Clemens Triangle – an unusual honor at the time, because Clemens was still alive to witness the renaming. Commissioner Stern shortened the park’s name to Clemens Triangle in 1987.
The triangle is bounded by Myrtle and Cypress Avenues, and Cornelia Street, and features four benches, trees, and red square brick tile paving. There are also two large red urns in which evergreen shrubs are planted.