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Joe Hellmann’s plaque unveiled in Douglaston

Jerry Iannece (l.) poses with Joan Hellmann (c.) and former state Sen. Frank Padavan at the unveiling of the Joseph B. Hellmann Overlook plaque. Photo courtesy Susan Seinfeld
TimesLedger Newspapers

Community leaders and residents of Douglaston overlooked the pouring rain last week to celebrate the unveiling of a ceremonial plaque in honor of late area activist Joseph Hellmann. The ceremony was a precursor to an ongoing project on the property to construct an overlook by next year.

Members of Community Board 11 joined with representatives from the city Parks Department Aug. 15 to introduce a plaque for the Joseph B. Hellmann Overlook along Douglaston Parkway and 243rd Street.

CB 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece joined former state Sen. Frank Padavan and the late activist’s wife Joan Hellmann to remember what the property could have been without Joseph’s fight.

“He was an environmentalist,” Iannece said of the community activist, who fought to turn the open lot into a park. “He was instrumental in getting that park together and he just kept on fighting. He was all the things a good civic activist is supposed to be.”

Hellmann died at the age of 70 in 2010 and was a crucial fighter against a potential apartment building that was proposed for the lot. Iannece said Hellmann kept the fight alive, even when the rest of the community thought it was doomed. The land was ultimately preserved and named Old Oak Pond to maintain the natural landscape, with Hellmann’s help.

“It was Joe’s wish to see a walkway through that area so everyone could enjoy the view and see the water,” Iannece said.

The Joseph B. Hellmann Overlook will include benches, a fence and wooden railing, with some support from the Parks Department. Though the project has not been fully funded, CB 11 District Manager Susan Seinfeld said the overlook should be finished by next year.

Joan Hellmann said she was glad to see her husband’s work continue to be recognized in the Douglaston community. Residents packed together outside the park underneath a Parks Department tent to escape pouring rain to unveil the plaque.

“Joe put in so much work for that area and I am absolutely thrilled about it,” she said. “It is a lovely, peaceful area. I am very excited to see it finished.”

The original plan, introduced last June, was to name the area Joseph B. Hellmann Park, but the Parks Department only went as far as allowing the new overlook as a compromise.

Hellmann was a director of the Douglaston Civic Association, served on the community board, was a founding member of the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance and was a director of the Douglaston-Little Neck Historical Society.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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