Press Releases

Thursday, February 13, 2003
No. 26


Polish Immigrant Who Came Through Ellis Island Donates Entire Life Savings To The City Of New York

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Gifford Miller today announced that the City would use the Temeczko Estate to help fund two projects: the renovation of Columbus Park, located in Lower Manhattan, and “The Daffodil Project,” the largest citizen planting effort in New York City history. Joseph Temeczko, a handyman from Minneapolis, Minnesota, donated his entire Estate, totaling $1.4 million, to New York City after the events of September 11th. According to his attorney, Mr. Temeczko was an immigrant of Polish descent who came to America through Ellis Island and worked briefly at the Statue of Liberty before moving out West. Mr. Temeczko died on October 14, 2001, shortly after amending his Will.

“Like so many others who selflessly came to New York’s aid after September 11th, we are honored that Mr. Temeczko would bestow his life’s earnings upon us,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The renovation of Columbus Park is one of countless ways we plan to revitalize Lower Manhattan, and it will serve the community for years to come. Using these funds to renovate the park, a place where New Yorkers came together after the attacks, befits the wonderful generosity shown to us by Joe Temeczko.”

“I can’t think of a better way to honor the life of Joseph Temeczko than by giving $250,000 to ‘The Daffodil Project’,” said Speaker Miller. “Through Joe’s generosity and love for New York City, we can all remember the lives lost on September 11th and renew the City’s spirit every year.”

“The tragedy of the attack on the World Trade Center touched millions of people throughout the world, causing ordinary citizens to perform extraordinary acts of kindness for this City,” said Mayor’s Community Assistance Unit Commissioner Jonathan Greenspun. “This is perhaps best exemplified in Joe Tomeczko, an individual whose dying wish was to help improve the lives of all New Yorkers. This bequest was made by a man of seemingly simple means and who has now left an indelible impression on this City for generations to come.”

About a week after the events of September 11th, Joe Temeczko instructed his attorney, William K. Wangensteen to amend his Will stating that he bequeaths his entire Estate “to the City of New York, New York, to honor those who perished in the disaster of September 11, 2001.”

According to Mr. Wangensteen, Mr. Temeczko had been searching for some time for an appropriate charity or cause to donate his life savings as he had no children or family to which to leave his Estate.

Shortly after amending his Will, Mr. Tomeczko died as the result of an apparent heart attack while working in his backyard on October 14, 2001. Later that month, Mr. Wangensteen sent a letter notifying the Mayor’s Office of the probate hearing; Mr. Wangensteen estimated the size of Mr. Temeczko’s Estate to be in excess of $1 million. At the probate hearing on November 19, 2001, no one contested the terms of Mr. Temeczko’s Will, which stipulated that the City use the money “for the interests of the people of New York City, as its Mayor and City Council shall best determine in their discretion.”

“I think the announced dedication and use of Joe’s $l.4 million bequest would meet with Joe’s approval,” said Mr. Wangensteen. “It will provide a living and renewing memorial to those who perished in the 9/ll disaster, and at the same time honor the City of which Joe was so fond. Although Joe always lived frugally, he loved to garden and was always proud to share the bounty of his flowerbeds. Now his benefaction will continue his love of nature and beauty and bring some joy to the people of New York. Daffodils are a beautiful and reliable harbinger of spring, hope and renewal, and their re-emergence each spring in the parks of New York will, I hope, serve as an ongoing blessing and memorial to New Yorkers. I think Joe would be pleased.”

Renovation of Columbus Park As part of the City’s overall vision for Lower Manhattan, plans are underway to renovate Columbus Park, located on Baxter Street between Bayard and Worth Streets in Chinatown. The 2.76-acre park consists of five areas: 1) a seating area with two-story pavilion, flagpole, wood-steel benches and planting beds; 2) an asphalt sports field with back stop; 3) a main east/west walkway with a stone comfort station, benches and planting beds; 4) a playground with steel equipment and benches, and 5) basketball courts with bleachers. Situated in the heart of Chinatown, one of the oldest residential areas in Manhattan, and adjacent to the infamous “Five Points” and “The Bend,” Columbus Park stands at the crossroads of the history and culture of New York City. The neighborhood was directly affected by the attacks on the World Trade Center, and following the attacks, served as one of the many gathering spots for candlelight vigils and community events.

Specifically, funds donated by the Estate of Mr. Temeczko will pay for transformation of the asphalt field to a synthetic turf field as part of the Mayor’s campaign promise to replace asphalt play areas throughout the City. Once completed, the Parks Department plans to erect a plaque dedicating the field in Mr. Temeczko’s honor.

The reconstruction of the playing field is one component of a comprehensive proposed redesign to bring a welcome cohesiveness to Columbus Park. The reconstruction of the park and surrounding sidewalks plan to include curbs, paving, fences, bollards, play equipment, sports field with carpet style synthetic turf, basketball courts, game and picnic tables, benches and other furnishings. New drinking fountains, lighting system, storm drainage, irrigation and water supply system will improve maintenance of the landscape and better serve the public. Additional landscaping will provide visual interest and color. The Temeczko funds are in addition to the $400,000 grant made by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation in October 2002 and the $1 million grant made by the National Parks Service’s Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program (UPARR) in June 2002 for the refurbishment of the Pavilion.

“Parks & Recreation is very grateful for this generous bequest which will support the vital restoration of Columbus Park,” said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “The new synthetic turf, replacing the existing asphalt, will provide the Lower Manhattan community with a beautiful playing field to use all year long.”

The Daffodil Project

After the September 11th attacks, many New Yorkers searched for ways to volunteer and help the City heal. “The Daffodil Project” was launched on Saturday, October 20, 2001 as a citywide initiative to create a living memorial of hope. In 2001, over 10,000 volunteers came together to plant 1.5 million daffodils in all five boroughs. That spring, ‘The Daffodil Project’ flowers bloomed to create vast ‘fields of gold’ throughout the City. In 2002, additional 500,000 were planted to bring the City’s grand total of daffodils to over 2 million. Thanks to New Yorkers and others who traveled to the City to help, daffodil bulbs were planted in parks, along highways, in community gardens, and in front of fire houses, police stations, libraries, and schools around the City. Mr. Temeczko’s bequest will help continue this urban beautification effort in years to come.

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