Melnick is affiliated with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, which he joined back in 2001. He’s been on the board since 2003, serving as president from 2006 to 2010. Now, he’s a trustee and licensed tour guide.
“I had the traveling bug and the history bug since I was a boy, but I never had a place to focus it,” he said. “When I found out about the historical society, the floodgates opened. I linked up with them and it’s been great ever since.”
He hosts a regular Halloween Haunted Waters walking tour that starts at the Hell Gate Bridge. Melnick also does tours in Hunters Point and Sunnyside.
One of the stories of western Queens that stands out dates back to the American Revolution. In August 1776, the British secured Brooklyn and then occupied all of Queens County after a large battle.
“New York City was the base of North American operations for the British,” he said. “We’ve had troop movements through here.”
There are also sad moments in Astoria’s history. In 1904, a paddle steamboat carrying 1,330 people caught fire on the East River. Nearly 1,000 people, mostly women and children, died in the river and washed up on the shores in Astoria.
“This area is one generation behind Lower Manhattan in terms of all the history,” he said. “The history goes back to written history, back to 1652.”
Melnick said as an American born in New York, he embraces all of its history, and others should too.
“If you don’t know anything about your past, that jeopardizes your future,” he said.