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World War I monument shines brighter after renovation

City Councilman Dan Halloran (l.-r.), Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece, Douglaston Civic Association President Eliott Socci and the president of the Queens chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Association, Pat Toro, stand beside the newly renovated World War I memorial. Photo by Rich Bockmann
TimesLedger Newspapers

For years, the Douglaston World War I monument sat neglected — its 75 names obscured by oxidation and overgrowth.

But last week, veterans and civic leaders gathered with City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) at a ceremony where he unveiled the newly restored monument and hailed the collaboration of city agencies that would ensure its upkeep for years to come.

“This shows what can happen when our city comes together for a common cause,” Halloran said. “Just a few months ago, this monument was in shameful condition. But today, it’s again a glimmering tribute to the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice, and a proud icon of the neighborhood of Douglaston. It’s a piece of our history, and thanks to the city’s work, it’s a piece of our future.”

Halloran said the monument was erected by a now-defunct civic association at some point in time before Douglaston was incorporated into New York City, though the year of its erection could not be determined.

It was Eliott Socci, president of the Douglaston Civic Association, who first brought the neglected state of the memorial to his attention in March. The memorial sits on a traffic island on the north side of the Long Island Rail Road station, and Halloran said that when he brought it to the attention of the city in April, every agency he spoke to told him it was not their responsibility.

Halloran said he and state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) then reached out to the mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, which was able to coordinate the city Parks and Transportation departments and city Economic Development Corp. to refurbish the monument and care for it.

During the small ceremony, Minister Adrienne Hausch of the Community Church of Douglaston read a prayer, and Socci gave a brief, moving comment.

“Today we focus on a monument made of grass and stone. The only thing you have to remember is that it memorializes the loss of flesh and blood,” he said.

Victor Mimoni, a spokesman for Halloran, said the monument includes the names of three women, one grandfather and grandson and at least one father and son.

The councilman said he was working to have a flagpole and permanent lighting installed at the site.

Devon O’Connor, the young president of the Welcome to Whitestone Commercial and Residential Civic Association, said it was important that memorials such as this be maintained.

“I’m sure there are plenty of 20-year-olds who can’t tell you about World War I, much less any other wars,” he said.

O’Connor said his association was working to put together a fund-raiser in order to secure financing for the Whitestone Memorial Day Parade.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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