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Officials from the city Economic Development Corp. and the Queens Library confirmed earlier this week that the millstones at Queens Plaza will be temporarily moved to the Long Island City Library during the ongoing renovation of the site.
“We think it’s a good solution,” said Julie Wood, spokeswoman for the EDC.
The millstones are considered the oldest artifacts in Queens. Weighing almost 400 pounds and measuring 4 to 6 feet in diameter, the stones were used in a tile mill to grind wheat into flour. The mill closed in the 1820s and the site was taken over by a family farm for some time. The location eventually became Queens Plaza in 1909, at which time the millstones were embedded into the ground as part of the plaza.
As the plaza is being reconstructed, the millstones have been stored on-site, one still in the ground and covered with plywood and the other inside a truck. The location of a temporary home for the millstones has been a subject of debate for residents and some, such as Gerald Walsh of the Dutch Kills Civic Association, have lobbied for the millstones to be temporarily moved to the library at 37-24 21st St.
“I think it’s the right place to go,” Walsh said.
Walsh said he believed the Long Island City branch would be a good location because the library would give people six days of public access to the stones and could be used as an educational tool.
“I’m sure if they’d use it right [visitors would] be able to go in and talk about the history of the stones,” Walsh said.
Wood said the agreement was made with the library to house the millstones there near the end of September and formulated with a memorandum of understanding between the EDC, the city Department of Transportation and the library. The EDC will take responsibility for the transportation of the millstones, and the library will be responsible for the cost of the installation.
“They are going to be transported safely and when they’re in the library they’re going to be under plexiglass,” Wood said.
But the decision has not been supported by all in the community. Some wanted to have the stones installed at the Greater Astoria Historical Society’s museum on Broadway and 36th Street.
“It’s disappointing,” said Dutch Kills resident Megan Friedman, “because the people who lobbied for it to be moved to the library are the same people who didn’t want it to be moved at all.”
Friedman said she believed the society had an interest in protecting the stones and did not believe the stones should be reinstalled in a heavily trafficked area where pollution could eat at them.
Barbara Lorinz, director of the Dutch Kills Advocacy League, said she would have rather the stones gone to the historical society so the society can study them and explain them to visitors, but said they would have been in pieces if they’d stayed at the construction site. She said she hopes the historical society can give tours or presentations and about the millstones at the library.
“I’m happy they’re going to the library because at least they’re out of harm’s way at Queens Plaza,” Lorinz said.
Nevertheless, Bob Singleton, executive director of the society, declared the decision a “victory.”
“Almost without exception the community demanded that the stones be moved from Queens Plaza to a safer location — but yet stay within the community,” Singleton said. “Everyone should thank EDC for listening to the community’s voice and altering their path.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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