The two meetings in April will be on Tuesday, April 2, at 7 p.m. and on Wednesday April 24 at 1 p.m. Both will take place at the Avenue Diner at 91-06 Jamaica Avenue and are free and open to the public.
Our Wednesday meetings used to take place at Emanuel United Church of Christ, but we’ve relocated to the Avenue as a matter of convenience to our members.
But that doesn’t mean our relationship with Emanuel is over, far from it! We plan to hold many special events in that great building. We already held a fun Dinner and Movie Night last month, and we have more fun events at Emanuel in the works.
So what will we be covering on Tuesday? We’ll be looking back at the Woodhaven of years ago through newspaper clippings, mostly from the archives of this newspaper, the Leader-Observer, which has done a remarkable job of documenting the happenings in Woodhaven for over a century.
And we’ll be backing up the research with old photographs. It’s one thing to read about something that happened long ago, but it’s even better when you can find contemporary photographs that bring that old history to life.
What I find interesting about local history is the ability to find commonality with residents of Woodhaven’s past.
When you read about the long, ultimately failed fights residents waged against the erection of the elevated train along Jamaica Avenue (they fought for a subway instead) or the construction of the viaduct across Atlantic Avenue, you can’t help but compare that to the recent fight against Select Bus Service.
Looking back sometimes helps put the current battles and controversies into a context that can make us look at things differently. The benefit of years gone by helps us make decisions on who was ultimately right and wrong.
For example, residents claimed the elevated train would be dirty and noisy, while the city promised that it would be “practically noiseless.” I think we know who turned out to be right about that one.
One very long battle that residents fought was the widening of Woodhaven Boulevard. This battle went on for over 20 years, and though the city eventually prevailed, the residents thwarted plans to have the entire plan paid for by local taxpayers alone.
In the end, the tax burden for the boulevard’s widening was spread out across the borough of Queens, a clear win for residents, particularly those whose tax share would have forced them to sell their homes.
During research for these meetings, we sometimes discover lost pieces of our history, such as the Memorial Trees of Forest Park, which turn 100 years old in May, or the Father Lawrence Lynch Memorial Triangle, which was properly rededicated earlier this month.
We’ve got one more lost piece of history coming your way, which we’ll explain at Tuesday’s meeting. This one is less somber than a memorial but interesting nonetheless, and we were very grateful to a local student who helped us with this discovery.
Most importantly, we hold these gatherings so we can interact and spend time with our neighbors. We can make these discoveries together.
On a final note, I’d like to remind you that we are having a brief gathering in memory of Woodhaven’s Jimmy Young, who tragically died 25 years ago this week.
We’ll be meeting outside St. Thomas the Apostle Church this Saturday morning at 87th Street and 88th Avenue, the corner that bears his name, right after the 9 a.m. mass.