Don't add Neir's to the “used to be” list
by Ed Wendell
Feb 05, 2019 | 1389 views | 0 0 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Neir's owner Lt. Loycent Gordon of the FDNY flanked by his wife Aisha and Martin Colberg of the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association.
Neir's owner Lt. Loycent Gordon of the FDNY flanked by his wife Aisha and Martin Colberg of the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association.
slideshow
Neir's Tavern as it looked in 1898 when it was known as The Old Abbey. Neir's was already 69 years old at the time!
Neir's Tavern as it looked in 1898 when it was known as The Old Abbey. Neir's was already 69 years old at the time!
slideshow
I’ve given my share of walking tours of Woodhaven, and if there’s one phrase I hate hearing myself say over and over again, it’s “used to be.”

That’s where the baseball stadium used to be. This is where the racetrack used to be. That’s where the movie theater used to be.

Everyone knows the places I’m talking about. Some of you are even wondering which movie theater.

I don’t ever want to be on a walking tour and have to say “That’s where Neir’s Tavern used to be.” I think that would break my heart.

If you’re unfamiliar with Neir’s Tavern, you might be wondering why all the fuss about a bar. After all, Woodhaven has lost a lot of bars. The Circus, Paddywack’s, The Shamrock, The White Horse Tavern and, more recently, Mike’s Pub.

So what’s different about this? What makes Neir’s Tavern so special?

For starters, there is its place in history. Neir’s was here before Woodhaven was even called Woodhaven, opening up as The Blue Pump Room in October of 1829.

It sat directly across the street from the giant Union Course Race Track, where match races between horses from the North and the South often drew over 70,000 people to our neighborhood. Can you imagine how many of them popped into Neir’s for a quick beer?

This establishment, regardless of the name, has been a constant in our community for 190 years.

When our racetrack was used as a camp for soldiers bound for the Civil War, Neir’s was there.

When our young boys were leaving Woodhaven to fight in World War I, Neir’s was there. Some of those boys might have even had a farewell bash at Neir’s, which in 1918 was already 89 years old.

When the stock market crashed in October 1929, plunging the country into a depression, Neir’s was there. In fact, it had just turned 100.

There is a lot of fun history associated with this establishment. The legend surrounding Mae West. The bowling alley. Goodfellas.

But I think the best way to look at its place in history is as an eyewitness to the changing community that surrounds it.

Woodhaven was built around the Union Course Race Track, and while that was happening Neir’s was there.

On its historical merits alone, I would hope that the City of New York would be very interested in safeguarding and protecting this enduring piece of New York history.

And on the merits of the type of place it is today, it deserves our support this year, which will mark its 190th Anniversary.

It has shown itself to be the kind of place where people of all backgrounds, religions, shapes and sizes come together.

At a time when a lot of the focus is on what divides us, this is a place where people find unity. A place where they’ve raised money for local sports leagues and volunteer organizations. A place that collects toys and canned goods for needy families.

There are people who recognize this. It wouldn’t be unusual to see a young tough guy and an 85-year old grandmother both wearing Neir's t-shirts passing on the street.

It’s not just part of our history, it’s part of our neighborhood’s identity. It should be, because from the day our community was founded on July 1, 1835, through today, Neir’s was there.

And it still is today.

And now the countdown to the 200th Anniversary has begun and let there be no mistake or misunderstanding: There will be a 200th Anniversary of Neir’s Tavern and what a party it will be.
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