Paying homage to local hero with street co-naming

“Joseph Magnus Way” honors his humanitarian spirit

By Stephanie Meditz

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On Saturday, the corner of 58th Avenue and 75th Street in Middle Village was co-named to honor a beloved community member, Joseph Magnus.

Middle Village residents joined the friends and family of Magnus to unveil a new street sign that reads “Joseph Magnus Way.”

Born in Slovakia in 1931, Magnus spent his childhood in the thick of the Second World War.

After he and his family escaped capture by the Nazis, he endured several wounds under the care of his fellow survivors and learned the importance of community service firsthand.

He learned the English language by working as an elevator operator, took computer classes at New York University, mentored community members and co-founded the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

On September 11, 2001, Magnus and the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps were among the first volunteers at the World Trade Center, where they spent days helping New Yorkers in a time of citywide need.

Michael Michel, president of Christ the King Regional High School, was Magnus’s mentee as a volunteer of the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

“I volunteered and I started on Wednesday nights with Joe Magnus as a trainee,” he said. “He put me under his wing, broke my chops…but he was a driven force.”

After five months volunteering with the corps, Michel ran for first officer under Magnus’s stern instruction.

Six months later, Magnus similarly convinced Michel to run for president of the corps.

Michel testified that Magnus would call former NYS Senator Serf Maltese every day to solicit funding for the corps.

Maltese, who funded several ambulance corps during his 20 years in office, likened Magnus to a drill sergeant in his fundraising efforts.

He said that Magnus not only helped the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps continue, but he also made sure it was the best-funded ambulance corps in the state.

Magnus was a major force behind the city’s memorandum of understanding to fund all ambulance corps in New York City.

“Nobody hounded me like Joe Magnus,” Maltese said. “My entire staff knew, whether it was Albany or Queens, when Joe was on the phone.”

City Councilman Robert Holden, who presented the co-naming, had similar encounters with Magnus since they met in the late ‘80s.

“He was always challenging me,” he said. “And this is probably why I’m standing here, it’s because of Joe Magnus. He urged me to run.”

Through his many phone calls to Holden’s office, Magnus inspired Holden’s funding of the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

“He was an amazing person. You couldn’t say no to Joe,” Holden said. “Joe would say what was on his mind and he didn’t have a filter.”

Holden also testified to Magnus’ regular attendance at parades and other community events, even in his old age.

“Joe had a heart of gold. He would help anyone,” he said. “He would help a lot of people and he didn’t brag about that part…but he was so dedicated to community.”

Senator Joe Addabbo, who got to know Magnus when he was elected in 2009, spoke of Magnus’s tough, no-nonsense exterior along with his perseverance, advocacy and community service.

“Even though he was not born in America, you’d be hard pressed to find someone more American,” he said.

Magnus’s daughter, Tanya, described her father as having a “rough exterior, but a heart of gold” in an article.

Magnus’s daughter, Tanya Magnus-Hoos, spoke of her father’s commitment to the American ideal of building a better life in this country.

“Joe Magnus was a capitalist and a patriot,” she said. “Every time something good happened in my life, like a promotion or a raise, he would be my first call. He’d get on the phone and say to me, ‘That’s great. Good country, huh? Let’s go on Grand Avenue and sing God Bless America.’”

“And I miss those moments,” she continued. “But what I also look forward to with hope and anticipation is that someday, when something good happens in [my children’s] lives and they call me, I can tell them, ‘That’s great. Good country. Let’s go sing God Bless America on Joe Magnus Way.’”

Magnus was notorious for sounding the ambulance’s loud, unmistakable horn at all hours of the night.

At the street co-naming, Joseph Campisi from the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps sounded the horn in his honor.

Jastremski: An Amazin’ Statement

By John Jastremski

Four plus months into the 2022 season and contrary to popular belief, I haven’t seen any similarities between the current edition of the New York Mets and the 2015 team that won the pennant. 

Why? The 2022 team is leaps and bounds better. 

It’s not even close — and the record proves my point. 

The Mets have been a first place team all season as opposed to 2015 where the Mets were .500 for 4 months. 

For the first time all year, I noticed a similarity that gave me a 2015 flashback. 

The New York Mets buried the Atlanta Braves in the same way the 2015 Mets team buried the Washington Nationals. 

This past weekend was a brilliant display of baseball on so many different fronts that should have the fan base jumping for joy. 

The Mets had the Braves closing in their rearview mirror the months of June and July. 

The Mets had terrific months, but the Braves kept winning. 

You wanted to see how the Mets would handle their biggest series of the year? 

Well, they passed with flying colors. 

Sure, they won 4 out of 5 games. That’s outstanding, but think about some of the stars of the weekend. 

The Mets three headed pitching monster looked unhittable against one of baseball’s best lineups. 

It started on Thursday night. Mets manager Buck Showalter set a tone for the weekend: that we are here to win and to win big. 

He decided to call upon Edwin Diaz for a six-out save after an easy 8th inning, and Diaz delivered. 

Saturday, the Mets counted on their bulldog hired gun Max Scherzer to complete a doubleheader sweep. Scherzer delivered seven shutout innings with relative ease. 

On Sunday, the icing on the cake. Jacob deGrom’s first Citi Field start of 2022 and was perfect for five plus innings, striking out twelve. 

It was pretty clear to me, if you have a healthy Scherzer, deGrom and Diaz come playoff time, you can beat anyone in a short series. 

You combine that firepower on the mound with a lineup that makes pitchers work, puts the ball in play and has a knack for getting the big hit, well then. 

You’re cooking with gas! 

The Mets have it all rolling in mid August, but in reality unlike 2015, this team has been rolling all damn year. 

You don’t win any parades in August, but the statement was pretty clear this past weekend. 

The Mets are the best team in the NL East and boy are they dangerous… 

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York every Monday, Wednesday & Friday on The Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify & Apple Podcasts. You can watch me nightly on Geico Sportsnight after Mets postgame on SNY.

Perlman: On a Mission to Reintroduce Local Weeping Beech Trees

By Michael Perlman

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A rare Weeping Beech in front of the now demolished Parkside Chapel. (Photo: Michael Perlman)

Every community has at least one tree that is the talk of the town, although all varieties uniquely contribute to a larger audience of trees, and every resident has their favorites.

Since 1961, a rare, healthy and most graceful Weeping Beech tree has stood in front of Parkside Memorial Chapel at 98-60 Queens Boulevard in Rego Park.

As this American Institute of Architects-recognized mid-century modern chapel was demolished in January despite a movement to preserve a tributary site to the Sinai desert of Moses, the Israelites and the Ten Commandments, workers assured residents that the Weeping Beech tree would remain.

Then one day, they cringed to observe their favorite tree being chopped down.

Months have passed, and Rego Park resident Jennifer Verdon courageously launched a fundraiser to plant five new Weeping Beech trees throughout the community in its spirit, while restoring a native species that is a novelty.

The goal is to raise $10,000, since each tree accompanied by precise planting costs an average of $2,000.

“I live behind what was the beautiful landmark-worthy Parkside Memorial Chapel designed by the Viennese architect Henry Sandig and Robert Kasindorf, and bore witness to its destruction for overdevelopment, which was devastating. I went outside to speak to the crew weekly, and they assured me that this rare Weeping Beech tree would be safe,” she said.

“I watched for a couple of months as the tree was teetering on the edge of the demolition site, hoping for the best. One day I came home, looked out my window, and burst into tears when I realized it was gone. I felt so betrayed and upset, that I knew I had to do something.”

The once cherished Weeping Beech tree.

The Weeping Beech, known as “Fagus Sylvatica,” is characterized by its shape with sweeping, pendulous branches. The distinctive Pendula variety comes in mushroom and fountain forms. Green leaves become yellow-gold in the fall. Come winter, the fractal nature of its branches is a showstopper.

Whenever Verdon would pass by Parkside Chapel and the tree, she felt fortunate to see it daily.

“I loved the whole corner so much, and felt it was really rare and special. Now I need to take a trip over to Weeping Beech Park in Flushing to get my Weeping Beech fill. That tree was rooted there over 151 years ago,” Verdon said.

She began brainstorming about a variety of potential local sites, where they would be highly visible and planting conditions would be most suitable.

She said, “I need to speak with the Parks Department, arborists, dendrologists and horticulturists who know a lot about these types of trees to find the best accommodations. They need a lot of sun and can grow very large. I’d also love to take suggestions from our community, as they know the area best.”

Verdon is also calling for the preservation and stewardship of other trees.

“Trees improve the quality of water, soil, and air by removing pollutants, help with noise reduction, and lower the temperature,” she said.

“They also reduce the amount of stormwater runoff, which reduces erosion and pollution in our waterways, and may reduce the effects of flooding. They also provide food, protection and homes for many beautiful birds and animals.”

The movement to restore Weeping Beech trees to the local landscape is already gaining traction.

“It’s sad to see a nice tree, especially a rare Weeping Beech, being destroyed,” Forest Hills resident James Civita said. “They supposedly all came from the one in Flushing that had landmark status in Weeping Beech Park.”

A prominent horticulturist, Samuel Bowne Parsons (1819-1907) obtained a seedling from a nobleman’s estate in Belgium and transported and planted it on his nursery’s grounds.

This 60-foot high and 80-foot diameter tree gave birth to generations of Weeping Beeches nationally, and potentially the tree that was in front of Parkside Chapel.

“When I used to walk by that beautiful Weeping Beech tree of Rego Park, it made my heart sing, as it was an elegant lady,” Forest Hills resident Philomena Rubin said.

She envisions having the new Weeping Beech trees planted in MacDonald Park, Parker Towers and at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs.

“Having trees helps keep us shaded and gives the birds a home. They are lovely to look at especially since we live in a concrete jungle,” she continued.

Rubin was first to donate to the fundraiser, and encourages anyone who can to pitch in.

Rego Park resident Irene Schaub said, “I not only enjoyed the beautiful tree’s form for the two decades I lived here, but I literally would dash under it because of the cool shade it provided on that sunny stretch of Queens Boulevard. I am so saddened to see it go.”

She proposes the Horace Harding and Junction Boulevard vicinity for Weeping Beech trees, after learning about its development plans.

Additionally, she envisions any spot along Queens Boulevard that is overly sunny as a perfect candidate. “Considering climate change, there should literally be a law that includes greenery in every project built in our urban environment, as well as provisions made for the maintenance of trees,” she added.

Another fan is Emily Otalora of Forest Hills. She said, “There is a calming serenity Weeping Beech trees provide when the gentle breeze tickles their vine-like branches creating a natural soothing soundtrack. A peaceful rhythm washes over you, and for a brief moment blocks out the cacophony of the city noises, making you forget that you are not in the middle of the woods, but in New York City.”

Otalora is from the school of thought that if a tree is healthy, it should be preserved.

Referencing the larger picture, she explained, “As someone who has experienced two sewer backups in 15 years, and tedious rebuilding as a result of all our greenspace getting paved over with concrete, it saddens me to see plant life being considered an afterthought, when long-term green spaces do a lot for the community. Let’s also bring back native plant life, especially if it can survive the longhorn beetle.”

For Crystal Ann, who works in Forest Hills, she smiles if she passes a Weeping Beech tree. She said, “They’re very majestic. I love their fullness and their color. They have a very magical feel. I think Forest Hills Gardens would be a great place to plant these beautiful trees, along with Forest Park and Union Turnpike, where the big patches of grass are.”

She continued, “These trees, along with other trees, help fight global warming and produce oxygen and much needed shade and beauty to our neighborhood.”

The public can donate to Verdon’s fundraiser by visiting https://www.gofundme.com/f/weeping-beech-fundraiser-replace-demolished-trees or https://gofund.me/76df45dd.

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