This triangle honors Leroy H. Gwirtzman (1927-1992), a World War II patriot and an active community member who contributed many years of dedicated service to this neighborhood.
A Brooklyn native, Gwirtzman attended P.S. 99 and Midwood High School. He served in the United States Army during World War II (1939-1945), returning to study at New York University, where he graduated in 1949. After settling in Neponsit with his wife Sally, he worked with his father, Saul, at the accounting firm of “Gwirtzman and Gwirtzman,” and later continued his accounting practice alone after his father’s death in 1972.
With a generous commitment to local affairs, he involved himself in many civic and community activities, including the Neponsit Property Owners Association, of which he was president. He was also a member of Queens Community Board 14, the 100th Precinct Mobile Observation Patrol, and the Jewish War Veterans. A 32nd Degree Mason, Gwirtzman served as Secretary of the Tuscan Lodge for 25 years.
This triangle, bounded by Beach Channel Drive, Beach 144th Street, Cronston Avenue, and Beach 145th Street is in the Neponsit neighborhood of Rockaway, Queens. Neponsit lies between Jacob Riis Park and Belle Harbor. A compact neighborhood situated on just over 20 square blocks, it began as one of the few tracts of land on Rockaway designed as a year-round, suburban-style community. The Neponsit Realty Company purchased the land in 1909, but construction was stalled due to a legal battle in which the federal government claimed title to the land, with plans to grant it to the City of New York for parkland use. A 1910 judgement assigned the government 15 acres, which became part of Jacob Riis Park in 1937, while the Neponsit Realty Company retained its right to the tract of land directly adjoining the park area.
The developers began selling lots in 1911, prohibiting hotel and commercial construction, and the area became completely built up during the 1920s and 30s with lavish, custom-built homes that rivaled those of Beverly Hills. To protect it against both the harsh sea air and the danger of fire caused by excessive winds on this narrow strip of land, houses were constructed of vitrified block and cement stucco. The quiet, tree-lined streets and dramatic seaside homes, both new and old, have upheld Neponsit’s reputation as a highly desirable place to live.
Parks acquired Gwirtzman Triangle in 1999. It is now part of the Greenstreets Program, a joint project of Parks and Transportation begun in 1986 and successfully revived in 1994. Its goal is to convert paved street properties, such as malls and triangles, into green spaces. This small traffic triangle underwent capital reconstruction in 2000, with $300,000 in funding provided by Council Member Alfonso C. Stabile. Today the triangle features a flagpole, trees, shrubs, and perennials, as well as winding walkways and an iron fence with seashore animal art.