Woodhaven man keeps rich past alive and well
by Ed Wendell
Oct 28, 2014 | 4796 views | 1 1 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Loycent and Aisha Gordon and WRBA president Martin Colberg.
Loycent and Aisha Gordon and WRBA president Martin Colberg.
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Growing up on the island country of Jamaica, Loycent Gordon could never have imagined that his future would be tied to a Woodhaven bar and restaurant that opened over 150 years before he was born, with a history tied to a famous racetrack, a legendary movie star and one of the most celebrated gangster films ever.

Located at 78th Street and 88th Avenue, Neir’s Tavern opened 185 years ago this month as The Blue Pump Room by Cadwallader R. Colden, manager of the historic Union Course Race Track, which sat directly across the street.

Over its long history, Neir’s has been known by several other names – The Old Abbey and The Union Course Tavern amongst them – and it earned a notorious reputation in the 1800s due to the rough crowds that lined up at the bar before and after a day at the races.

Today, Neir’s Tavern is as much a part of Woodhaven’s history as anything around and, after adding food service and a tasty menu, it has become a popular gathering spot for those who want to have a few drinks and a good meal with friends.

Neir’s Tavern is open seven days a week and you can get a preview of their menu and event schedule at www.neirstavern.com or call (718) 296-0600.

Over the years, many of the old-timers that frequented Neir’s told tales of stage and screen legend Mae West performing in the theater that was once attached to the social hall. While some people cast doubt on these tales, those who were there back in the day swore it was true, and she did live just a few blocks away.

One thing beyond dispute was Neir’s reputation as an old-time, classic bar with a rich history. This reputation attracted the attention of film scouts and resulted in some of the more memorable scenes from Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas starring Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci being filmed inside.

As for Loycent Gordon, after having moved from Jamaica the island to Jamaica, Queens, the neighborhood, fate pointed him in the direction of Woodhaven where, along with three partners, he took part in a complete overhaul and restoration of the bar, reclaiming the name it held for nearly seven decades, going back to when it was purchased by Louis Neir in 1898.

After its reopening in 2009, Neir’s Tavern has become a vibrant showcase for musical and spoken word talent.

“I feel it’s a great place to galvanize the community on a social level,” Gordon says of his tavern. “Organizations like the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association and the Woodhaven Historical Society do it in a more formal manner. Neir’s does it like they did in the old days.”

Sure enough, Neir’s has been the site of several fundraisers over the past few years, one for our Ambulance Corps, one to fight autism, and yet another to benefit a young man fighting bone cancer.

“It’s what we do,” Gordon says. “First and foremost, we’re a part of our community.”

As if owning a historic tavern wasn’t enough to keep a man busy, Gordon has also spent the last 10 years helping keep residents safe as a member of New York’s Bravest. This past week, Gordon was honored in a ceremony which saw him promoted to lieutenant.

“Loy is a really good man, and we are very proud that he is a member of our community,” said Martin Colberg, president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association. “His promotion is well deserved.”

Gordon’s lovely wife Aisha, who periodically hosts spoken word and poetry nights at Neir’s, is very happy for her husband. “He’s worked very hard for this, it’s been a long process, and I’m really proud of him,” she said.

This past weekend, Gordon served as one of the judges at a puppy costume contest at the K9 Korral Dog Run at Forest Park, and out of nowhere a small poodle – dressed as a fireman, no less – leapt into his lap.

“Only in Woodhaven,” Gordon said laughing. “I love this town!”

On behalf of all of the residents in Woodhaven, congratulations Lt. Gordon, and thank you for your service.

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Paul Toomey
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October 29, 2014
Loy was a gracious host when our K-9 Korral volunteers met at Neirs this summer for a meeting. I had not known that Loy was a firefighter, but it makes sense as Loy is concerned about the community and the people in it. Well written article, Ed. Thanks for the info.