Neir’s Celebrates Historic Designation With Community Block Party

By Britney Trachtenberg britt@queensledger.com 

Neir’s Tavern in Woodhaven hosted a community block party on Sat., Apr. 27 to celebrate their Queensmark Historic Designation, given to the bar by the Queens Historical Society. 

Previously, the New York City Landmarks Commission denied Neir’s Tavern landmark status. According to community bar owner Loycent Gordon, the commission said that the bar did not meet the necessary level of significance. Gordon said, “Today, we are going to change that.” Attendees met his words with car honks and applause. 

The speeches started at 2:00 p.m., given by Neir’s Tavern Ambassador Club President Richie Salmon, Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society President Ed Wendell, Gordon, Queens Historical Society Board President Rob McCay, Executive Director of the Queens Historical Society Jason Antos, Councilwoman Joann Ariola, and a representative from Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr.’s office.

First, Salmon thanked the attendees for coming out to support the community bar. “We’re all here because of [Loycent],”. He said. “Neir’s would not be here …[if not for] him. We wouldn’t be having this [if not for] him. Everybody says that DeBlasio saved Neir’s. Loycent’s the one that saved Neir’s.”

In 2009, Gordon bought Neir’s Tavern to save the historic bar from closing down. As of Apr. 27, the bar is halfway to their 195th Anniversary, which will happen in October.  

After approaching the stage, Gordon asked for his son, Evan, and wife, Aeisha. Evan’s birthday occurred on Sun., Apr. 28, one day after the celebration. Gordon commented, “First, he was in the stomach and then we had him in the basket, all right here at Neir’s Tavern. Now he’s running around Neir’s Tavern.” In true community spirit, he invited the crowd to sing happy birthday to his son. Evan thanked the attendees for the birthday wishes.

Gordon referred to the Woodhaven community throughout his speech. He said, “Neir’s Tavern is not mine. Neir’s Tavern is yours. I did this to help save one of America’s oldest taverns because it needed help, but I always tell people ‘I can’t eat all the burgers and drink all the beer.’ I need your help. We need your help.” He spoke about the community’s role in the bar’s success.

He said, “Neir’s is what you decide to do with it, not just what I decide,” Gordon said. A driver honked his car horn in approval. He continued, “You see something wrong, you see something needed, you say ‘We don’t have to wait for someone else to save us.’ We have the ability to stand up to what we see is wrong and say ‘No. Not this one. Not Neir’s Tavern.’” He added, “I’ve witnessed people like Richie [and] I’ve witnessed people like Swim Strong Foundation who are doing good work in the community and I’m so happy I have an ability to actually create a vehicle for you guys to do all your fundraisers, all your family get-togethers, and it makes me smile because it makes me believe that community in the sense of taking care of each other still exists today.”

Gordon thanked supporters of the bar. He thanked the Neir’s For Years community members, Neir’s Ambassadors, and customers for their support. Then, he gave shout-outs to government officials: Queens Community Board 9 Chair Sherry Algredo, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez’s office and State Senator Joseph Addabbo’s office, State Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar, and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr.’s office.

Previously, the Senator gave Neir’s Tavern the first Empire Business Award of New York. 

Then, Gordon expressed his gratitude for the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, Forest Hills Hospital, Gotham EMS., the Jamaica Hospital, and the Kiwanis Club of Ozone Park-Woodhaven. He mentioned Queens Civil Court candidate Shairfa Nasser-Cuellar as well. 

Lastly, Gordon said “I want to just thank the Neir’s Tavern team who’s inside right now working very hard, so give them a round of applause so loud they can hear you.”

McCay and Antos stepped onto the stage to give Gordon the Queensmark Historic Designation plaque. Initially, the Queens Historical Society used to give the award to buildings and homes with architectural value. Recently, the organization started giving the award to local businesses with historical value. Antos said, “We hope that these plaques help preserve the business, bring awareness to the business, and help it in its quest to achieve some sort of landmark status.”

Councilwoman Ariola said, “In the last round before this past election day, Neir’s was one block out of my district. Now you’re in the heart of my district.”

A representative from Congresswoman Velazquez’s office gave Gordon a congressional record. The representative read a section of the record aloud for attendees, which said that Gordon immigrated from the country of Jamaica to Queens at ten years old.

The representative from Senator Addabbo’s office thanked Gordon for contributing to the community.

After the speeches, members of Gotham EMS gave CPR demonstrations on adult and infant mannequins. They educated the crowd on the signs of a stroke.

The event featured a bouncy house, face painting, and a raffle. Attendees lined up outside the bar to receive free hotdogs, chips, and bottles of water. 

Gordon said “At least once a year, we have a block party and invite everyone to come out. Our advertising is this. Being a community gathering place, we help people eat and drink and have a good time.”

Neir’s Tavern hosts community events throughout the year such as food drives and cancer awareness events. The bar has karaoke nights, trivia nights, open mics, and even a writers’ circle that meets once a week.

Remembering School Safety Agent Orville Williams

By Ed Wendell
Orville Williams was only 25 years old, not much older than the students that passed by him in the hall every day. He had been working as a school safety officer for just over 2 years at Franklin K. Lane and was well-liked and respected by everyone who knew him.
“He was a big man with a big heart. He treated kids fairly and encouraged them to do their best in school,” is how one assistant principal described him.
It was shortly before 3 pm and the hallways were full of students looking forward to the end of the day. They were joking and laughing and there was probably some pushing around and shouting, as kids tend to do.
A small skirmish broke out between two teenage girls, which Safety Agent Williams responded to and diffused, something he had done numerous times since he started the job in 1997.
Once that situation was quelled, Williams ran to help stop another fight, this one between two groups of students in the schoolyard. As Williams ran down a stairwell towards the exit, he suddenly clutched his chest and collapsed.
He was rushed to Jamaica Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Of Agent Williams, then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani said “He died trying to protect the children of our schools. His death is even more tragic because he was young himself and he had so much more to give to his family and his city.”
Nearly twenty-five years have passed since that awful day at Franklin K. Lane but School Safety Agent Orville M. Williams has not been forgotten and will be honored this coming Saturday at 1 p.m. when the corner of Dexter Court and 85th Drive will be co-named in his memory.
The street co-naming is part of an ongoing effort by the Newtown Historical Society and its President Christina Wilkinson to honor the memory of fallen police officers around Queens. A few weeks ago, we saw Officer Arthur Kenney (who was killed in the line of duty in 1926) honored by having the corner of 80th Street and 90th Avenue co-named in his honor.
And later this year, Sergeant Thomas Francis O’Grady will be remembered when Eldert Lane and 87th Avenue will be co-named in his honor. O’Grady was seriously injured in August 1916 when responding to reports of a stabbing at Dexter Park. His horse slipped on the cobblestones; O’Grady was thrown from his horse which then fell on top of him. He died 5 days later from his injuries.
The Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society was happy to support this effort by the Newtown Historical Society, who also enlisted the support of Councilwoman Joann Ariola, Councilman Robert Holden and Community Board 9, led by Chairperson Sherry Algredo.
Together, the street co-namings will shine a light on three sad moments in our community’s history. And they also provide some comfort to the families these officers left behind, letting them know that we have not forgotten their loss.
But I believe that these efforts have another effect, which is to acknowledge the risks that every current member of the NYPD takes every time they put on that uniform and go to work. Every day they leave for work they know there is always the possibility that the unthinkable could happen, and they might not return home at the end of their shift.
And yet, they push aside those fears and get dressed and head to work, serving and protecting the people of New York City. Every single day.
And in an era when some people do not feel the same way (sadly, this includes some elected officials around the city), these street co-namings serve several purposes.
First, to honor those officers who lost their lives while on the job. And also to show every officer currently serving that we understand the risks that they face, and the fears that they must quell to do their jobs. And we appreciate them for taking on such a difficult job.
We hope you will join us 1 p.m. this Saturday at Dexter Court and 85th Drive to honor the memory of School Safety Agent Orville Williams, gone nearly 25 years, but never forgotten.

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