Urban planner honored with street co-naming in Jackson Heights avenue he helped beautify
By Juan Arturo Trillo
Named after former Deputy Queens Borough President, “Peter Magnani Way” now stands tall on 81st St and 34th Avenue.
Magnani, who also served as an urban planner and architect, was honored with a street co-naming in his home of Jackson Heights on the morning of Saturday, June 18, 2022.
At 82 years old, Peter passed away on June 23rd, 2021. The street naming ceremony was attended by Peter’s family, friends, colleagues, and teammates.
A variety of speeches by Peter’s friends and community leaders preceded the unveiling of Peter Magnani Way.
The installation of Peter Magnani Way was spearheaded by former Councilman Danny Dromm along with former judge and community leader Rudy Greco.
“We’re here to honor Peter, but I feel honored to have been numbered among Peter’s friends,” Greco said.
Dromm anticipates that students will see Magnani’s name on the street and will be pushed to learn more about his impact.
Councilman Shekar Krishnan spoke of Magnani’s many contributions to Queens, including the Flushing Meadows Corona Park swimming pool/ice rink, Queens Hall of Science, and conversion of the Towers Co-Op in Jackson Heights.
He propelled a variety of projects, including the Flushing Meadows Corona Park swimming pool/ice rink, Queens Hall of Science, and conversion of Jackson Heights’s Towers Co-Op.
Magnani drove the installation and development of new libraries in Long Island City, Glen Oaks, Elmhurst, Far Rockaway, and Hunters Point.
Magnani helped to protect working class communities from developments which would displace tenants from their homes and communities, Krishnan added.
Krishnan said that Magnani understood how people’s environments affect their daily lives.
“His life, his legacy, has not just literally and physically changed the landscape of Jackson Heights and Queens, but it has left its mark on urban planning, on public space, and on how we think about our communities and our city for generations to come,” Krishnan said.
One of Magnani’s largest projects was the median on 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights.
The median now lies in the center of the new 34th Avenue Open Street, where the street is closed to cars from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Krishnan attributed much of its success to Magnani’s median.
Borough President Donovan Richards added that open streets give people an opportunity to build community, learn about each other, and celebrate the borough’s greatest strength: its diversity.
In addition to other initiatives, Magnani’s legacy was cemented through the variety of roles he served within the Queens and New York City communities.
Magnani worked at both the Bronx and Queens Departments of City Planning. He was then appointed as Deputy Borough President under the then-Borough president Claire Shulman. Finally, he became the Director of Capital Program Management for the Queens Borough Public Library.
Former Councilman Barry Grodenchik remembered Magnani as a “voice for his community” in his role as Deputy Borough President.
Former Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer added that Magnani was the “calm in the center of the storm” in his work.
Robert Esnard, former Deputy Mayor under Ed Koch, described Magnani’s career route to his government roles as unique. Esnard attended the City College of New York with Magnani where they played baseball together, and their friendship continued into their later years.
Esnard said that one of Peter’s final dreams was to play half-court basketball with his grandsons.
“[Peter] lived his life with grace, with kindness, and with a concern for his fellow man,” concluded Esnard.
Krishnan, whose district encompasses Jackson Heights, recalled Magnani’s long lasting legacy that will be remembered for generations to come.
“We lead the way as a neighborhood standing on the shoulder of Peter, pushing his work and legacy forward,” Krishnan added. “In changing permanently, a small piece of the landscape of New York City, we are recognizing the incredibly large impact that Peter’s life and work had.”