FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, December 20, 2019
ELMHURST PARK IS NOW HOME TO THE CITY’S FIRST MEMORIAL TO QUEENS VIETNAM VETERANS
NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, today joined Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, U.S. Congresswoman Grace Meng, New York State Senator Joseph Addabbo, New York State Assembly Member Brian Barnwell, New York City Council Member Peter Koo, New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm, New York City Council Member Robert Holden, National President of the Vietnam Veterans of America John Rowan, and Community Board 4 Parks Chair Gregory Spock to officially cut the ribbon on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Elmhurst Park.
The memorial, which was fully funded by Borough President Katz, was originally conceptualized by the members of Vietnam Veterans of America local Chapter 32, led by Queens resident Pastor “Pat” Toro who lost his life after returning home. The creation of the memorial would not have been possible without his advocacy.
“The Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial pays tribute to local heroes and publicly honors their sacrifice,” said Commissioner Silver. “With the help of Borough President Katz and local veterans, we have fulfilled our promise to provide community members with a new greenspace to sit, reflect, and honor their loved ones. This memorial will commemorate their bravery and legacy in Elmhurst Park for generations to come.”
“It’s been more than a decade since the late Pat Toro first dreamed up the idea of a borough-wide memorial honoring the valor and selflessness of Queens service members who never returned home from the Vietnam War. Thanks to the persistence and dedication of so many of his fellow Queens Vietnam War veterans, Pat’s dream has become a reality,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “Today and every day forward, an eternally grateful borough pays tribute to the heroic men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.”
“Our brave veterans defended and protected our democracy and we must never forget their selfless service, and the sacrifices they made to our nation,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng. “This new Vietnam Veterans Memorial will honor the fallen heroes from our communities and ensure that they are remembered by future generations. I’m proud to have played a key role in pushing this project forward, and working on it with local veterans. This ribbon cutting is a long time coming and it is an honor to help commemorate the memorial’s completion. I thank and commend the late Pat Toro and the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32 for having the vision for this initiative, and for all they’ve done to make it happen.”
“This new memorial serves as a fitting tribute to our borough’s very own Vietnam War veterans,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm. “These men and women sacrificed so much for us. It is only right that we honor their memories in this dignified manner. I salute Borough President Katz for prioritizing this important project. It has been a pleasure to work alongside her to improve parks and other public spaces in Queens.”
“I am thrilled to play a small part in the realization of the Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial,” said Council Member Robert Holden. “Back in 2002 and 2003, we organized a coalition to fight the sale of this land to a big box sale and we secured the 6.2 acres of land to create this beautiful park. Now that the monument is unveiled, it will be a great addition to the neighborhood, to Queens County and the City of New York. It is my wish that future Veterans Day parades will make this their first of last stop on the route.”
"Thanks to the efforts of the late Pat Toro and the members of Queens Chapter 32 of Vietnam Veterans of America those men and women from Queens who gave their lives in service to America will be recognized today,” said National President of the Vietnam Veterans of America John Rowan. “This memorial will also recognize those who succumbed to illnesses back home after their service. For many, it has taken more than 50 years for their sacrifice to be recognized. Like Queens today the heroes came from all around the world to serve their adopted country."
The semi-enclosed memorial provides a contemplative space that honors those Queens residents who fell during the Vietnam War. The memorial was designed by NYC Parks in consultation with the Vietnam Veterans of America local Chapter 32. Two semi-circular granite walls flank the space. One bears the name of the memorial, the five crests of the military and the Vietnam Service Medal. On the inside of the wall, an etching of bamboo represents a common element of the Vietnam War. The second wall provides the history of the war including key events and dates, as well as the names of the fallen, which have been placed strategically to receive sun during the day. A section of the memorial pays tribute to the many soldiers who later died at home due to effects of the war. The granite walls, as well as the existing flagpole, will both be illuminated at night.
Inside of the enclosure sits a radial bench, and in the center of the oval, a granite map of Vietnam with key locations highlighted. The space is designed to host small memorial gatherings to remember the heroes it honors. Additionally, plantings have been added to soften the edge of the space.
The project is fully funded by allocations from Borough President Katz, who has allocated $2.3 million in capital funding between FY17-18, which comes on top of the $550,000 first secured in FY08 by then-City Councilmember Katz.
Elmhurst Park, once and eyesore and traffic landmark, opened to the public in 2011 as a magnificent community greenspace. The site of Elmhurst Park was once the location of two KeySpan Newtown gas holders, a highway landmark popularly known as the “Elmhurst gas tanks”. With the support of the community, the site was sold by KeySpan to the City of New York for $1 and was cleaned up and returned to the public as open space. The park now features lush lawns, a playground for kids, jogging paths, seating, sculpture, modern comfort stations, safety lighting, and more than 600 trees.