One Big Family, the FDNY Proves That It Never Forgets.

By Ed Wendell

The family of Lt. James Griffin gather in front of the Ozone Park firehouse 100 years after the accident that took his life and the lives of 2 other firefighters, John Dunne and Michael Hanley.

Sometimes when you’re doing research you don’t know what you’re going to find or where it will lead. In late December, I spent a few nights going through all of the Leader-Observers from early 1923, looking for headlines to share with our members 100 years later.

One headline, about a terrible crash on February 6th, 1923, really shook me. A truck carrying three firemen from Ozone Park was struck by a Long Island Railroad express train at the intersection of Atlantic and Rockaway.

I had never heard of this tragic accident and soon temporarily abandoned the search into all things 1923 and began to focus solely on this incident and the lives of the 3 firemen, Lt. James Griffin, and Firemen John Dunne and Michael Hanley.

The details were so very sad and tragic. Just before 6 p.m. on February 6th 1923, during a heavy snowstorm, Truck 142 in Ozone Park received a call about a fire on Crescent Street.

They made their way out into the storm and when they got to the intersection of Rockaway and Atlantic, they had to wait as the LIRR workers held the local train and then raised the gate for them to pass. Then out of the snowstorm came an express train roaring from Jamaica towards Brooklyn.

The crash was horrific, dragging the wreckage hundreds of yards down Atlantic Avenue. People came running from their homes to help. Two of the firefighters, John Dunne and Michael Hanley, had been killed instantly. Lt. Griffin had hit an electrified line and though he initially survived and put up a good fight, he would pass the next day.

Together, they left 3 wives and 11 children.

And that was that. Or so I thought. I gave a Zoom presentation and shared the details of the accident. But it seemed such a shame that no one had heard about this and no one knew the names of these three heroes.

So we decided to do a special presentation on the 100th anniversary of the crash, so we would be assured that they were remembered. We found pictures of 2 of the firefighters’ tombstones online and went to the cemetery to get pictures of the third.

And when I got home, the story changed dramatically. There was an email waiting for me from a man named Brian Fitzgerald, the great-grandson of Lt. James Griffin. He had read an article in this newspaper and reached out to tell me about a ceremony they had planned for over a year. In fact, they had ordered a plaque to commemorate the sacrifice that these 3 heroes made.

This had been in the works for quite a while and Mr. Fitzgerald had done the legwork and tracked down living descendants of Firefighter Dunne, who lived nearby and would be at the ceremony.

They hadn’t been forgotten at all. 100 years later, these men were still remembered, not only by their descendants, but by the FDNY.

I should have known better. The FDNY never forgets their heroes.

And so we found ourselves at a beautiful ceremony at Engine 285 / Ladder 142 on 98th Street in Ozone Park, in the very same station house where these left on their fateful last call 100 years before.

And there were a lot of members of the Griffin family, with grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even a few great-great grandchildren. Lt. Griffin’s son served in the FDNY and his many descendants have flourished and have made him proud.

Firefighter John Dunne’s 2 great-grandchildren were there and spoke about how they knew very little about this accident until Brian Fitzgerald called and how this has impacted their lives, and how it brought them closer to the hero in their family.

Sadly, firefighter Hanley had no living descendants but he was not without family in attendance on Sunday. That is because everyone was family at this gathering. And that’s what it is like to be a member of the FDNY; being part of one big giant family.

And they proved yet again that they always honor and never forget those that went before them. In the back of E285 / L142 there is a beautiful tribute to all the brave firefighters they have lost in the line of duty over the years, and that duty is to protect and watch over us.

From that fateful evening 100 years ago, right through today, that firehouse has never been empty. It’s been on call, just like every other firehouse in New York City, every second of every day and will continue to do so forever.

God bless the souls of Lt. James Griffin, and Firemen John Dunne and Michael Hanley and every other firefighter who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty; may they rest in eternal peace.

Exclusive: One-on-One with Larry Grubler of TSINY

By Alicia Venter

aventer@queensledger.com

“Transitional Services is a not-for-profit mental health agency that provides both residential and outpatient services to anybody over the age of 18 who has a psychiatric diagnosis,” Larry Grubler recited, as if he had said the line a hundred times before.

He likely has — Transitional Services for New York (TSINY) works to make Queens safer for its struggling locals, not for the community’s praise and accolades.

With facilities throughout the borough and in the Bronx, TSINY, based in Whitestone, provides a continuum of rehabilitative services with a community-based approach to those recovering from mental illness.

Grubler has been the CEO of TSINY since 2007 and with the agency for a total of 31 years.

He has taken upon himself to expand the facilities and assets by which his organization can best support some of Queens’ most vulnerable.

What exactly do these rehabilitative services entail?

To Grubler, who attended St. John’s University for his masters degree and received his doctorate from Southern California University, this means that individuals have constant access to care at their own pace and need level.

The whole concept of TSINY — which has a staff of approximately 400 people — is to transition, avoiding a “one size fits all” mentality regarding psychiatric treatment.

“In the housing units, for instance, we have all the housing from supervised living settings for people that need staff available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to teach them the skills that they need to function out in the community…so then we can go from there, and they would transition out to an apartment,” Grubler said in an interview.

TSINY offers housing to over 600 individuals, with a variety of housing situations.

The supervised community residence programs, for instance, consist of single and shared living quarters, with amenities including exercise rooms, libraries, kitchens and dining facilities.

The different buildings, programs and apartments offer a range of treatments to facilitate the eventual adjustment by their patients into the community.

Their buildings offer courtyard space and rooftop access, as to provide a safe way for the patients to socially interact with one another.

There are currently two projects under development in Jamaica, as well as two housing facilities already there, called the Delson and Amelie’s. The additional facilities are expected to be completed in 2024.

Since he became CEO, the nonprofit’s assets have grown from $12 million to nearly $100 million, largely due to the development of their residential buildings and other day facilities.

Starting with a budget of $250,000, they now have $40 million to continue with projects to meet the continually shifting needs of people with mental illness.

“There’s a lot of needs out there, and there’s been a lot of growth in the mental health field,” Grubler said. “I’ve got a really good team of people that helps support that growth. We’re constantly writing proposals to do more — to do better.”

The difference between homeless shelters and the supportive housing provided by TSINY, Grubler described, is the on-site supportive services to people living in the buildings with psychiatric disabilities.

“There’s too many people that are living in a homeless shelter to really give them the individual attention that they need to be rehabilitated… 600 people living in a building, that’s hard.”

In the residential facilities, TSINY teaches skills that residents need in order to function in the community, including how to cook, clean, budget, take medication, to do laundry, and other things “you and I might take for granted,” Grubler detailed.

“Because of the illness, which usually starts between the ages of 18 to 24, [such as] the schizophrenia, major depression and things of that nature, they don’t usually get that opportunity to learn those skills as effectively and practice them,” Grubler said. It’s TSINY’s job to step in and provide what they can to develop those necessary skills.

A crucial part of this development is job training — TSINY offers job resume building courses and on site-job support. They also have an “affirmative business,” called Turn the Page.

This used bookstore — funded by the city — allows residents to maintain a job for approximately three months to learn work skills.

Through this transitioning business model, patients are able to earn work experience and garner a sense of pride in their work abilities.

There are a number of success stories garnered from this affirmative business model, Grubler detailed, including a woman who now works on the Intrepid.

“Because of the stigma of mental illness, people don’t usually want people who are mentally ill having a program in their neighborhoods,” he said. “But with [Turn the Page], other community boards, other communities have said, ‘please open one near us.’”

Grubler would be willing to open another affirmative business, he said, with the proper funding.

Through Grubler’s leadership, TSINY continues to grow, serving Queens’ vulnerable in a community-based supportive way.

For more information on TSINY, visit www.tsiny.org.

Forest Park: 128 Years of Beauty and History

By Ed Wendell

This past weekend, we had the pleasure of giving a presentation on the history of Forest Park to a large group of volunteers who help maintain and beautify our park, which is now entering its 128th year. For a combination of beauty and history in Woodhaven, you’d be hard pressed to beat Forest Park.

Although much of Forest Park’s 538 acres consists of natural woodland, the park itself was planned and designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Originally envisioned as one giant, continuous park stretching from Brooklyn all the way to Jamaica (and originally called Brooklyn Forest), changes in population and the resulting development reduced the scope of that plan.

A nine-hole golf course was opened to the public and by 1905, the popularity of the golf course would prompt it to expand to 18 holes, originally stretching south all the way to Ashland Avenue, where residential homes marked the start of Woodhaven proper.

As part of the expansion, a Dutch Colonial golf clubhouse was built on the course in 1905 by the architectural firm of Helmle, Huberty & Hudswell, who also designed the landmark Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower in Brooklyn.

The golf course is still active and the beautiful clubhouse today is called Oak Ridge and serves as the home of the Forest Park Administration offices.

If you go east from the old clubhouse, you’ll eventually reach the Seuffert Bandshell (pronounced Soy-fert), a near 100-year old bandstand named after bandleader George Seuffert Sr.

For many years, Seuffert and his band entertained people at the bandshell and it was officially named in his honor in 1979.

A little further along, you’ll come across the Forest Park Carousel, which was designated as a landmark by the City of New York ten years ago, in 2013.

Artistically, the Forest Park Carousel is particularly notable as it was the handiwork of the legendary master carver Daniel Muller. Muller came to the United States from Germany as a child in the 1880s and as a young man he and his brother worked for Gustav Dentzel, a renowned carousel builder in his own right.

Dentzel’s father built carousels back in Germany going back to the mid-18th century. Muller took advantage of the opportunity to learn all of these old-world skills from Dentzel and blended it with his own realistic style to carve out a name for himself and in 1903, D.C. Muller and Bro. Company was founded.

Muller’s carvings were notable not only for being very beautiful and realistic; in some cases the carvings were militaristic, with horses sporting bugles, swords and canteens.

Over 14 years, D.C. Muller and Bro. created over a dozen carousels but, sadly, today only two remain: one in Cedar Point, Ohio, and ours right here in Forest Park.

The Forest Park Carousel contains three rows of carvings; the outer row contains 13 standing horses, three menagerie animals and two chariots. The inner two rows each contain 18 jumping horses (for a total of 36).

While the Forest Park Carousel is often referred to as a Muller carousel, you will also find a few carvings from Dentzel and Charles Carmel, another notable carousel artist of the same era, on the inner two rows.

Not far from the carousel you will find one of the most beautiful spots in New York City, the Greenhouse at Forest Park, which was designed by legendary greenhouse builders Lord & Burnham, who also built the New York Botanical Garden, the United States Botanic Garden in Washington D.C., and the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh.

Flowers and plants throughout parks in Queens and Brooklyn are grown right here, as they have been for over 100 years.

And if you continue walking east you will cross Woodhaven Boulevard and reach Victory Field, a large recreation complex with baseball fields, a running track, and a handball court. Victory Field was named after the Unknown Soldier of World War 1.

Today the track portion of Victory Field is named after longtime Woodhaven Assemblyman, the legendary Frederick D. Schmidt.

Forest Park is full of beauty, but it is also full of history and visitors to the park 100 years ago would be pleasantly surprised to see so much of their history preserved and beloved by the current residents of Woodhaven and the many volunteers that tend to the park.

 

Exclusive: 1-year-interview with Ariola

By Matthew Fischetti

mfischetti@queensledger.com

Last year, Joann Ariola comfortably sailed to victory to represent City Council District 32 – which stretches from Belle Harbor up to Southeast Queens nabes like Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Woodhaven.

The Queens Republican bested Democratic candidate Felicia Singh, capturing over 67 percent of the vote in a district previously represented by fellow Republican Eric Ulrich since 2009.

Although she was just elected to her first term last year: Ariola has been a long time presence in the community. A lifelong resident of the district, Ariola, 64, previously served the president of the Howard Beach Lindenwood Civic Association and as the Chairwoman of the Queens Republican Party.

Our paper dedicated to catch up with Ariola to discuss her first year in office as well as discuss upcoming initiatives.

“What surprised me most was [after my first year] how well, a body of 51 people who come from different backgrounds and ideologies can really pull together to make a better city,” Ariola said in a recent Zoom interview.

While Ariola is one of a handful of Republicans in the Democrat denominated city council, she said that she often takes a bipartisan approach to legislating, citing her position on the Common Sense Caucus – a group of conservative and center-leaning legislators, which include registered Democrats like Bob Holden and Kalman Yeger.

In her first year in office, Ariola has been the first primary sponsor of five pieces of legislation and two resolutions. One of Ariola’s bills, a law that requires the Fire Department to survey firehouses on whether they have gender specific bathrooms for female firefighters, was passed by the council and signed by the Mayor last year.

“And the mayor has already signed that into law and you know, that had widespread bipartisan support. Why? because it’s common sense. That’s how I approach things,” Ariola said.

Ariola also wrote a bill that would create an office of Marine Debris Disposal and Vessel Surrendering, which would be responsible for coordinating between federal, state and local authorities to remove debris from New York City’s shores; find ways to recycle and reuse the material; as well as developing new practices to prevent the act.

While the bill is still in committee, it has been sponsored by a majority of the council. Ariola told BQE Media that she expects the bill to pass before the end of February.

“We cannot win in this district, a Republican cannot win without Democrat and Independent voters,” Ariola said, who represents a district where over 50 percent of voters are registered Democrats.

“I ran on three major points to the platform: public safety, quality of life and education. Those are the three top subjects when we were knocking on doors – that’s what people cared about most,” she continued. “And that resonated with the voters. It didn’t matter their background – any type of ethnic background, religious background, or enrollment in a party.”

In respect to quality of life issues, Ariola said she has tackled the issue by funding additional cleanups in both commercial districts and residential streets in the neighborhood. While the issue has not fully been addressed, she said the city is in the procurement phases to get cameras to monitor chronic dumping areas throughout the district. She also emphasized working with the Queens Economic Development Program to clean up graffiti in the district.

While 2022 issues largely centered around public safety, Ariola said that quality of life issues and the economy. Specifically, Ariola said that she is looking into taxes and contributing reasons to why New Yorkers are leaving for other states.

Ariola exclusively told BQE Media that she will be sponsoring legislation that would require Deliveristas to have to register their vehicles and have them insured.

While Ariola is repping many of the same neighborhoods as previous years, her district lines have added slivers of Glendale and Woodhaven while losing parts of Ozone Park.

While Ariola hasn’t represented Glendale before, she said one of the local issues she would focus on would be monitoring the Cooper Rapid Rehousing Center, which has drawn the ire of locals.

“I will work as hard for the Glendale homeless shelter, the one that is just across the border in Woodhaven as as I do for the one in Rockaway to make sure that the people who are running the shelters are held accountable for their their population, and that their population is not an at risk population for our host community,” said Ariola.

In response to a question about representing the new areas, Ariola noted that despite being in different nabes, her constituents have similar issues across the district.

“I realized that there are some areas that are more specific in their issues than others, but they don’t want the loud noise from cars,” she said. “So it’s noise complaints. It’s garbage complaints. It’s the fact that construction may be being done on a school.”

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