Tag Archives: Fort Totten

Pols at Fort Totten call for increased security at Army Reserve Centers


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the office of Paul Vallone

Congressman Steve Israel and local officials stood outside the Ernie Pyle Reserve Center at Bayside‘s Fort Totten on Monday to call on the Department of Defense to address security concerns at Army Reserve Center facilities nationwide.

Last week, Israel sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter asking that he consider an increase in the amount of active security measures, including providing security guards at military Reserve facilities. The request follows the July 16 attack on two military centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which saw a lone gunman opening fire and killing four Marines and critically wounding a Navy sailor.

Security concerns at the Reserve Center were brought to Israel’s attention by a worker at the Fort Totten military facility.

Israel said that more must be done to ensure the safety of service members, whether they are stationed overseas or within the U.S.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the five service members killed in Chattanooga,” Israel said. “Unfortunately, this is a stark reminder of the devastation caused by gun violence in our country, and the security concerns surrounding our military facilities nationwide.”

Councilman Paul Vallone applauded the congressman for spearheading the initiative.

“The horrible tragedy at the Navy Reserve Center in Chattanooga has highlighted the need to address security concerns at reserve centers across the nation,” Vallone said. “We need to ensure that those who willingly put themselves in harm’s way to protect us, are in turn given the best protection we can provide.”

According to Mac Harris, director of Fort Totten Operation, budget cuts in 2009 forced Fort Totten to remove its armed guards from the facility and put in place a passive security system.

“The Army Reserve presence on Fort Totten adds to the surrounding community’s sense of well-being,” said Warren Schreiber, president of Bay Terrance Community Alliance. “In return, the Department of Defense must do everything possible to ensure the safety of troops on this base and at all Army Reserve locations. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is urged to provide Fort Totten’s Reserve facilities with adequate and immediate security.”

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VIDEO & PHOTOS: First Fort Totten Independence Day fireworks show


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Dominick Totino Photography / Video courtesy of Personal Touch Video & Photo Production

The rockets red glare — and other colors, too — burst in the air above Fort Totten during an early Independence Day pyrotechnic extravaganza Wednesday night.

Hundreds of residents from Bayside and surrounding communities gathered on the fort’s parade grounds to watch the light show that the Bayside Historical Society and City Councilman Paul Vallone presented.

The festivities began before sunset with musical performances from the MichelleMarie RockBand Camp and the Phil Costa and Something Special Band. Vallone along with other elected officials — including Public Advocate Letitia James, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Rep. Grace Meng and Assemblyman Ed Braunstein — were among those in attendance.

Shortly after sundown, the Long Island-based Fireworks by Grucci lit up the night sky with a 15-minute pyrotechnic show set to patriotic music.

 

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Where to park and watch first Fort Totten Independence Day fireworks show


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo via Jon Sullivan/ Wikimedia Commons. Maps via Office of Councilman Paul Vallone

No doubt about it, excitement for the first-ever Fort Totten Independence Day fireworks show is exploding.

The July 1 fireworks show, which is the brainchild of Councilman Paul Vallone and the Bayside Historical Society (BHS), is expected to draw thousands of residents from around northeast Queens and may ignite an annual tradition.

Vallone and BHS began blasting new details to the public on Monday about the event, such as where to watch the fireworks and where to park vehicles, hoping the information will help to launch the fireworks show without a hitch and provide family-friendly fun for the community.

“I can’t imagine a better way to kick-start the summer than with a fireworks show and concert in Fort Totten,” Vallone said. “For the first time, residents in northeast Queens won’t have to travel far for world-class fireworks.”

The event will begin at 6 p.m. with performances from the MichelleMarie RockBand Camp, and then the Phil Costa & Something Special Band. The pyrotechnics show by Long Island-based Fireworks by Grucci will begin at 9:15 and last 15 minutes.

The fireworks will shoot up from the soccer fields, also known as the Parade Grounds, and about 2,000 residents should be able to fit in the lawn near the pool for prime viewing area. However, because the fireworks will be so high, many areas around Fort Totten will provide good views. Vallone said even Bronx residents will be able to see the show.

Take a look at the map of north Queens and the Bronx below for other visibility areas. The purple locations indicate viewing spots. 


Guests can park their vehicles at Little Bay Parking Lot, along Bell Boulevard, and beginning at 5 p.m. the Clearview Golf Course and the Bay Terrace Shopping Center parking lots. Shuttle bus service provided by Vallo Transportation will then take residents to Fort Totten from the golf course and shopping center. Vallo will have return buses to the lots from Fort Totten following the event.

Residents are asked to bring blankets, lawn chairs and picnic items to the event, however, alcohol is prohibited because Fort Totten is a park and security will check bags and storage devices, such as coolers.

Vending trucks will be on site with snacks and drinks, including roasted corn, lemonade, funnel cakes and corn dogs.

During the show, the BHS will announce the winner of its bee-naming silent auction.

BHS has two new beehives and two winning bidders will have the chance to have the queen bees named after themselves. The winners will also receive a Swarovski crystal tiara, a sash, a certificate, a gift basket with skin care products, a jar of local honey, and family membership to the BHS for one year. The starting bid is $250. To enter, email a bid to info@baysidehistorical.org.

Also, the BHS will extend hours to its castle so guests can view exhibitions, giving them a sense of the past of the community.

“We’ll be making history on July 1,” said Alison McKay, executive director of the BHS. “Hosting an Independence Day celebration right outside our front door is a great way for the community to link the past with the present.”

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First Independence Day fireworks show coming to Fort Totten


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo via Jon Sullivan/ Wikimedia Commons 

Bayside residents can skip the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks this year, because fireworks are coming to Fort Totten.

The Bayside Historical Society and Councilman Paul Vallone have organized the first official fireworks show at Fort Totten, which will be on July 1 ahead of Independence Day weekend.

The 15-minute pyrotechnic show by Long Island-based Fireworks by Grucci will commence following a three-hour concert by local bands. People will be able to see the colorful explosions from as far as Whitestone, Douglaston and even The Bronx, Vallone said. The entire event is free and will run from 5 to 9 p.m.

“My idea is for it to become a really great annual event,” Vallone said. “For me, doing things outside, like we do with the Children’s Holiday Parade, really are the things that start to define how great this community is.”

People will be instructed to bring seats and picnic blankets for the show. The fireworks will shoot up from a soccer field at Fort Totten, and guests will be directed to the area near the pool, which will be able to fit more than 2,000 people, according to Vallone. However, there will be other places around Fort Totten for people to view the show.

Vallone said they are also expecting to bring tall ships around Fort Totten for children to watch.

The Bayside Historical Society is covering the event costs — more than $20,000 for the fireworks — through grant money it received for events from the Department of Cultural Affairs.

Advertising for the event will begin around mid-May and maps will be printed so people know where to watch the show and to park their vehicles.

The Bayside Historical Society usually holds a concert around the end of June, but after speaking with Vallone, they decided to mesh the two events. Depending on the event’s success, it could become an annual tradition for Independence Day, according to Alison McKay, executive director of the Bayside Historical Society.

“We’re so excited to bring this family-friendly event to Bayside,” McKay said. “No pun intended, if it launches well, we’ll do it again.”

Vallone and the historical society are calling for volunteers to help direct guests and coordinate the event. Contact info@baysidehistorical.org to volunteer.

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Bayside Historical Society looking to bring agriculture program to Fort Totten


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The Bayside Historical Society (BHS) is looking for a few good families to join its upstart community-supported agriculture (CSA) program based at the Castle at Fort Totten.

According to Frannie Budynek, a BHS trustee, the society seeks at least 50 shareholders to register with the CSA by no later than Wednesday, April 15, in order to get the program off the ground for the growing season.

In a CSA, families and individuals purchase shares in a farm within 250 miles of the community. Many of the CSAs in New York City are aligned with farms based on Long Island’s North Fork.

Farmers use the money collected to grow produce and, from June through late November, deliver their harvest to the shareholders. The produce includes leafy greens and radishes in the spring; tomatoes, eggplants and cucumbers in the summer; and various types of squash in the fall.

CSA shares typically run about $30 per week per family, but Budynek said each shareholder gets more than their money’s worth in produce. Shares can also be divided among two families to help allay the costs and share the food wealth.

“The farmers are very eclectic. They try to grow a very diverse number of products,” Budynek said. “It’s like you have your own personal farmer.”

She added that the CSA program is environmentally friendly, as each farm grows its produce organically with limited pesticide use, and helps keep the farming industry in New York State economically viable.

“It helps to support local farmers and protect farmland,” Budynek said. “It keeps them farms instead of turning them into subdivisions so people can make a living through agriculture.”

She hopes to hold cooking demonstrations and recipe exchanges during weekly produce distribution at the Castle at Fort Totten. The BHS is also seeking volunteers to help coordinate one pick-up shift each month for about three to four hours.

To join the CSA or for more information, call 718-352-1548 or email info@baysidehistorical.org.

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Fort Totten’s historic buildings in danger because of neglect


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Fort Totten’s history is slowly fading away.

The historic Bayside park is home to several dilapidated and historic buildings that have been sitting vacant and in need of repair, according to the Bayside Historical Society. The oldest among these is the Willets Farmhouse, built in 1829, making it the oldest building in the area.

Despite the deteriorating conditions none of the buildings will be repaired anytime soon, according to city records.

“We would like to see them all being used so they’re not lost to history,” said Paul DiBenedetto, president of the historic society, who said that the Parks Department hasn’t done enough work on the older buildings to preserve them. “I see the realism of it but I don’t like the fact they abandoned these buildings.”

A Parks Department spokeswoman said that the farmhouse was worked on in 2013 to stabilize it but the area is completely fenced off and no one is allowed inside to check the building’s condition. Abandoned NYC, a website devoted to decaying sites, published a photo tour of some of the buildings in 2012.

The park has more than 100 structures that were built between 1829 and the 1960s. In 1999 it was landmarked as a historical site because many of the buildings “have a special character and special historical and aesthetic interest and value which represent one or more eras in the history of New York City,” the Landmarks Preservation Commission wrote, “and which cause this area, by reason of these factors, to constitute a distinct section of the city.”

Part park, Fort Totten is also part office space for various government entities like the FDNY and the Parks Department, among many other agencies.

The Parks Department is in the planning phase of a $2.1 million restoration project, of the roofs of two historic buildings: the Chapel and the Commander’s House, both of which were built in the early 1900s, a parks spokeswoman said. But construction won’t begin until next year, leaving the two historic buildings exposed to rain and other natural elements that will eat away at the building.

The groundskeeper for the park said that if something isn’t done soon, the buildings would be damaged beyond repair. And as winter approaches, groundskeeper Mac Harris knows that the buildings will suffer.

“The roofs are not being repaired,” Mac Harris said. “The buildings are slowly being decayed.”

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Parks Department postpones decade-long Whitestone project


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Parks Department

The completion of Little Bay Park’s comfort station is being postponed yet again, officials said.

The Parks Department said the most recent delay was due to a harsh winter and an unusually high amount of soil that had to be removed from the construction site.

The new deadline for completion is set for next spring and, once finished, it will end a project that has sputtered along for a decade.

State Sen. Tony Avella and former U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman secured millions of dollars in 2004 to install bathrooms and expand the parking lot.

As of now, visitors to the park and Fort Totten must use portable toilets.

The department finally broke ground last year and announced that the whole project would be finished this fall.

But that deadline is going to be missed, according to a spokesman for the Parks Department.

While the bathrooms won’t be completed until next year, the Parks Department plans to complete a 100-space parking lot and install bioswales to absorb stormwater runoff this fall.

The current budget for everything is $6.659 million, a higher amount than Avella and Ackerman collected in 2004.

As construction continues, the majority of the park, which is named after the bay it faces, is fenced off.

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Structures at Fort Totten set for renovation


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy NYC Department of Parks and Recreation

Upgrades are coming for buildings at the historic Fort Totten Park.

The Commanding Officer’s House and the chapel at Fort Totten are set to be revitalized, according to the Parks Department, which oversees both structures and announced Aug. 8 that it is accepting bids for a contractor to do the work.

The deteriorating roof on the Commanding Officer’s House, which is used as administrative offices for the Parks Department, will be replaced with new slate shingles, and the building’s columns and cornices will be restored to their former glory.

Also, the capitals atop the columns will be replaced with ones from the building’s original design, and the metal balcony on the second floor will be repaired.

The chapel, which hosts weddings and other catered events and is used by a Korean church, will also get new shingles for its roof and steeple. And new gutters and leaders will be installed on the roof. The project will also repair, replace and paint exterior woodwork.

Fort Totten was originally built during the Civil War, and was named in honor of Gen. Joseph Totten, who died during the war.

Many people go to Fort Totten, now a park, to swim in the pool, play on the baseball field and view the historical structures.

 

 

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Beat the heat at free outdoor pools in Queens this summer


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of nycgovparks.org

Instead of sitting in air conditioning, try cooling off in one of the borough’s free outdoor pools starting Friday, June 27. All locations are open from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (with a break for cleaning between 3 and 4 p.m). The season ends September 1.

Astoria Park
19th Street and 23rd Drive
Olympic-sized Pool

Fisher Pool
99th Street and 32nd Avenue
Outdoor Intermediate Pool, Outdoor Wading Pool

Fort Totten
338 Story Avenue
Outdoor Intermediate Pool, Outdoor Wading Pool, Outdoor Diving Pool

Liberty Park Pool
173rd Street and 106th Avenue
Outdoor Intermediate Pool, Outdoor Wading Pool

Marie Curie Park
211th Street and 46th Avenue
Outdoor Mini Pool

P.S. 10
45th Street and 30th Road
Outdoor Mini Pool

P.S. 186 Playground
Little Neck Parkway & 72nd Avenue
Outdoor Mini Pool

Windmuller Park
54th Street and 39th Road
Outdoor Mini Pool

 

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Queens native explores borough in new children’s book


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Illustrations © Rick Sanders

Demetra Tsavaris-Lecourezos is taking young readers on a journey around the world with the first magical stop in Queens.

Tsavaris-Lecourezos, who was born in Jackson Heights and raised in Woodside, is the author of a new children’s book and series titled “Young World Travelers and the Magical Crystal Globe,” where a group of kids from Florida are transported to any time period they want, wherever they want.

The first book of the series debuted Sunday at the World’s Fair Anniversary Festival. It takes these young world travelers back in time to experience the site of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, the Queens County Farm, before it was a museum, and a Civil War fort in Fort Totten.

“You pick up books in the bookstore and you are learning about the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building, but never about the structures in Queens,” Tsavaris-Lecourezos said.

The concept of the “Young World Travelers” series began nine years ago when Tsavaris-Lecourezos gave birth to her daughter Katerina, the year after marrying her high school sweetheart. Together with her husband, Constantinos (Gus) P. Lecourezos she began to come up an initial concept of writing a movie script that would be educational for children and revolve around traveling to Greece.

After realizing the large costs that involved turning the script into a film, Tsavaris-Lecourezos decided to create a children’s book. She wrote four books in total with the characters traveling to places in Egypt, England, Greece and New York.

In 2009, her husband passed away and Tsavaris-Lecourezos moved to Tarpon Springs, Florida with her daughter.

At the end of last year a friend suggested she take her concept to a publisher and when Tsavaris-Lecourezos approached publisher thewordverve inc. her ideas were accepted.

“It was all falling into place, I had no idea,” she said. “I’m rolling with it and I’m really excited.”

The “Young World Travelers” series is dedicated to Tsavaris-Lecourezos’ husband and mother. In the book the children receive a magical crystal globe, which allows them to time travel, from Mrs. Eva, who was named and inspired by Tsavaris-Lecourezos’ mother.

The 43-page book’s illustrator Rick Sanders is also a Queens native. Though Tsavaris-Lecourezos and him first met through thewordverve, they were coincidentally born in the same hospital.

During the World’s Fair Anniversary Festival, Tsavaris-Lecourezos held two readings to share the book with visitors of all ages.

“I was so honored to have been invited to such an event,” she said. “It was amazing and an opportunity of a lifetime to be able to debut my book there.”

To preorder “Young World Travelers and the Magical Crystal Globe,” click here.

 

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Community Board 7 votes to name park after fallen fire marshal


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Randall Wilson

A fallen Queens fire marshal may soon be honored in a way that would allow his young twin boys to grow up realizing their father’s legacy.

Community Board 7 voted Monday to name a playground in Fort Totten after Martin “Woody” McHale, 50, who died of a heart attack in his car Christmas Eve 2012.

McHale, who lived in Hollis Hills, suffered the attack on his way home from work and crashed his car into a tree less than 200 feet from his house, police and the Queens Medical Examiner’s office said.

“Woody was a role model. He was a mentor. He was a fireman’s fireman,” said his boss, Commander Randall Wilson of the FDNY’s Bureau of Fire Investigation. “His heart was always in the right place, and if more people had a heart like his, the world would be a much better place.”

McHale, a member of the FDNY for 23 years, was assigned to the bureau’s Citywide North Command in Fort Totten. He would bring his twin 4-year-old boys to the currently nameless playground next to his job on his days off, Wilson said.

“He only had a few short years to spend with his sons,” the fire commander said. “Many of those days were at the playground on Fort Totten. His boys loved it there and Woody cherished the time spent at the playground with them.”

The change needs to be approved by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s Parks Department commissioner.

A bar in the West Village was named after McHale while he was alive.

“Having this park named in his honor would show generations of children just how wonderful he was,” Wilson said. “It would be a legacy for his family and for the fire marshal’s department.”

Community Board 7 also approved a $2.4 million capital Parks Department project to rebuild the crumbling sea wall at Hermon A. Macneil Park in College Point.

The City Council funded plans also include creating a separate fishing area and a kayak launch at the park. The plans still need state Department of Environmental Conservation approval.

 

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Beat the heat at free outdoor pools in Queens


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of nycgovparks.org

Instead of sitting in air conditioning, try cooling off in one of the borough’s free outdoor pools starting Thursday, June 27. All locations are open from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (with a break for cleaning between 3 and 4 p.m.).

Astoria Park
19th Street and 23rd Drive
Olympic-sized Pool

Fisher Pool
99th Street and 32nd Avenue
Outdoor Intermediate Pool, Outdoor Wading Pool

Fort Totten
338 Story Avenue
Outdoor Intermediate Pool, Outdoor Wading Pool, Outdoor Diving Pool

Liberty Park Pool
173rd Street and 106th Avenue
Outdoor Intermediate Pool, Outdoor Wading Pool

Marie Curie Park
211th Street and 46th Avenue
Outdoor Mini Pool

P.S. 10
45th Street and 30th Road
Outdoor Mini Pool

P.S. 186 Playground
Little Neck Parkway & 72nd Avenue
Outdoor Mini Pool

Windmuller Park
54th Street and 39th Road
Outdoor Mini Pool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MTA cancels plans to re-route northeast Queens buses


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Construction at Little Bay Park will no longer affect local bus routes, officials said.

The MTA had plans last month to re-route buses traveling from Fort Totten to Flushing for a year due to ongoing joint projects at the park.

Work from building a comfort station, expanding the parking lot and repaving the bus turnaround terminal at Little Bay Park prevented the Q13 and Q16 from making normal stops, the MTA said in a May 7 letter to elected officials.

The transit agency originally wanted to redirect the Q13 up 212th Street, passing local schools and homes before it gets back on track to Bell Boulevard, according to correspondence. It also proposed ending the Q16 at a new stop on Willets Point Boulevard.

“We did not want the buses going through residential areas,” said Assemblymember Ed Braunstein. “It’s dangerous. It’s noisy. It’s not right.”

Braunstein said the MTA and local leaders were able to quickly come up with a less intrusive route.

The buses will instead enter and briefly drive through Fort Totten before leaving and continuing on normal routes. Regular stops will not be impacted, the MTA said.

“This way nobody is inconvenienced,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance. “This agreement proves that when people make a good faith effort to find solutions to difficult problems, exceptional things can happen.”

 

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Center for the Women of NY returns to Fort Totten


| mchan@queenscourier.com

A women’s resource center has been given the green light to come back to Bayside.

The Center for the Women of New York (CWNY) received approval and funding from the state’s Dormitory Authority to go through with a project to renovate the exterior of a historic Fort Totten building and refurbish its first floor.

The 207 Totten Avenue site will be CWNY’s new home by next year, officials said. The walk-in resource center for women will have a cultural and conference center and offer career, legal and financial support services.

“I’m thrilled,” said CWNY president Ann Jawin. “We’ve been waiting a long time. It’s good to know we’re finally on the main track.”

The Center for the Women of New York, founded in 1987, is a volunteer-based nonprofit.

Its Fort Totten operations were suspended in 2002 when CWNY was pushed out by a city Fire Department facility.

CWNY has been operating in Kew Gardens in a donated classroom space at Queens Borough Hall since then, but Jawin said the space is too small to be completely efficient.

The organization went from a 12,000-square-foot location to a tiny office, she said.

“Here I’m extremely limited in what I can do,” Jawin said. “I had a wonderful operation going there. It was very successful. I should not have been forced to leave.”

The state approval comes after a decade of legal battles and ongoing talks to return to Fort Totten.

Officials are completing designs of the new 10,000-square-foot space and expect to bid out the first phase of the project later this year. They hope to secure more funding.

The project received a unanimous approval by Community Board 7 last February.

 

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Star of Queens: Paul Di Benedetto, president, Bayside Historical Society


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

QC03282013

BY ANTHONY O’REILLY

COMMUNITY INVOLVMENT: As president of the Bayside Historical Society, Paul Di Benedetto heads the board of directors and helps to define its mission.

The group, formed in 1964, works to archive and preserve Bayside’s history by maintaining those properties that have already been landmarked, as well as working to landmark other sites in Bayside. Di Benedetto said the group was originally formed to save Fort Totten and the Lawrence Cemetery. The two sites are now a NYC landmark and since then the society has been working to provide maintenance for both.

The society also works to educate people about Bayside’s history.

Di Benedetto has been president of the society for a year. He is also a member of Community Board 11.

BACKGROUND: Di Benedetto has been living in Bayside since 1995. He said he originally moved there because of its proximity to Manhattan, where he was working at the time, and fell in love with the historical houses in the area.

FAVORITE MEMORY: Di Benedetto says his favorite memory in working with the society is seeing the look of joy in children, and even adults, as they learn of the area’s history. “It’s great to see how they take [history] up too and how it relates to them.”

INSPIRATION: Di Benedetto said he didn’t like the fact that land developers would come in and destroy many of the homes in the area.

“I didn’t like the fact that developers and short-sighted people were coming and buying the houses,” he said. “They’d clear the properties and put all this asbestos in the air.” In working with the society, Di Benedetto hopes to halt, if not completely stop, this kind of development.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “It’s a lack of understanding,” Di Benedetto said about trying to get sites landmarked. “People are afraid for some reason.” Di Benedetto said he tries to get people to understand that by landmarking a site, their house or property is “locked in time.”

 

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