Cadman Park Conservancy honors late WWII veteran
Veterans honored at Cadman Plaza Park
Columbus Day is now also called Indigenous People’s Day. Why can’t that holiday be on a different day?
If people want this additional holiday, then it should be celebrated on a different day, not on October 11. We Italian Americans are proud of celebrating Columbus Day, and nothing should ever change that.
Forty new American citizens were sworn in on the grounds of King Manor Museum last Friday, pledging their public oath and allegiance to this nation.
Remarks from immigration officials and oaths administered by Judge Sanket J. Bushar of the Eastern District of New York marked the long-awaited day for many, which coincided with Citizenship and Constitution Day.
The naturalization ceremony was part of a larger welcoming of 21,000 citizens in 355 ceremonies across the country last week, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Karen Jachero, one of Queens’ newest citizens from Ecuador, said the joyous day was six years in the making.
“I’m excited and ready for my new path as a citizen,” Jachero said, clutching her newly received naturalization documents. “For me it was very important to get U.S. citizenship so I can bring my mom from my country and, of course, to have the right to vote. I was waiting for this for so long.”
Following the ceremony, Jacero and others re-enacted what the founding fathers did 234 years ago: signing their name to the U.S. Constitution.
Bushar spoke to the significance of King Manor Museum, the home of Rufus King, serving as the host for the Friday morning event.
“Decades before the civil war, he spoke out against slavery when it was a radical thing to do,” said Bushar. “He was able to do so because our United States Constitution protects freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly, rights that are forever shrined in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.”
The magistrate judge for the Eastern District of New York said his district, which serves over 8 million people, is one of the most diverse places in the country and possibly the world.
“More languages, customs, international cuisine and houses of worship are found here than anywhere else,” said Bushar, who added that his parents became citizens in the 1970’s, shortly after immigrating from India.
“They came in search of opportunities not available anywhere else,” he added. “They first landed in Queens and moved to LeFrak City with only a few dollars to their name and with big dreams. I am grateful that they took this first step that made it possible for me to become a judge.”
The swearing-in ceremony concluded with a final Pledge of Allegiance and the distribution of official documents.
“I am sure you will always hold close to your hearts your native lands and its people and its customs, as you should,” said Bushar. “You today have all made the decision on this day to embrace the United States of America as your country. The United States is richer for all the traditions and history you bring from your native lands.”
The eighth annual Bodypainting Day was celebrated in Union Square over the weekend. The event was hosted by Brooklyn artist Andy Golub and his nonprofit Human Connection Arts (HCA), and featured a number of 26 artists painting 45 nude models.
The year’s theme was resilience, as well as a focus on body positivity.
“I think it’s important to show that New York City is getting better,” said Rocket Osborne, a New York City-based architect.
For four hours, models of all shapes and sizes served as human canvasses, as bystanders took photos and video.
After getting painted, the group marched to Washington Square Park for a photo shoot at the iconic arch. The group then took a double-decker bus to an afterparty at HCA in Greenpoint.
Golub is known for his human canvas paintings, often painting numerous models and then arranging them for an even bigger piece of art.
“We painted a whole bunch of people and it’s going to look like an Andy Golub at the end because he’s going to go over with his black lining,” said Tom Sebazco, an Astoria-based artist.
A group of nearly 100 people gathered at the Remsen Family Cemetery in Forest Hills on Sunday for a Memorial Day Ceremony honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the country.
The annual parade that usually precedes the ceremony was cancelled for a second year due to COVID.
“Today is a moment of remembrance, reflection, and reverence to all those who sacrificed their lives for god and country,” said Michael Arcati, commander of America Legion Post 1424, which helped organize the event. “We are also here today to salute the first responders, doctors, nurses, EMT, police, and community volunteers who carried us through the dark days of the COVID pandemic when we could not leave our homes and death surrounded us.”
The National Anthem was sung by Abby Payne before Captain Joseph Cappelmann took the podium as the first honoree of the day, receiving the Law and Order award for his service to the community. Cappelmann has been the 112th Precinct’s commanding officer since February of 2020.
“We are here to honor all the servicemen and servicewoman who gave their lives to defend our nation and our freedom,” he said. “Despite all the challenges that our nation has faced lately, the American dream is still alive, and we must honor those who gave everything to defend it.”
Fellow honoree Bob Simpson is an adjunct of Post 1424, as well a three-time Purple Heart recipient.
“Someone once said death is not final until you are forgotten,” he told the crowd. “While I breathe, all of you will live on and your sacrifices for our freedom will be remembered. I salute all those brothers and sisters who fought for us and didn’t come back.”
The end of the ceremony was marked by the laying of wreaths and a formal recognition of Post 1424 members that passed during the last year.
Heidi Chain, president of the 112th Precinct Community Council, served as grand marshal with Teresa Amato of LIJ Forest Hills Hospital. Chain talked about the value of sacrifice and paid special homage to her father, a veteran of WWII.
“Memorial Day and every holiday has changed in how we are able to participate because of COVID, but despite that the message in our heart has not changed,” Chain said before quoting former president Barack Obama. “Our nation has set aside this day to pay solemn tribute to the patriots who gave their last full measure of devotion to this country that we love.”
Despite the rainy weather, dozens of veterans, community members and elected officials gathered on Saturday to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.
The annual Memorial Day tradition, led by the United Veterans & Fraternal Organizations of Maspeth, included wreath-laying ceremonies at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Elmhurst Park, the World War I Memorial at Garlinge Triangle, and the monument at Memorial Square, where 128 of Maspeth’s war dead are remembered.
“These brave souls deserve our gratitude,” said Ken Rudzewick, a veteran and longtime member of the organization who hosted the day’s events. “It’s because of them and the many Americans who went before them that we enjoy the great nation we live in today.”
Assemblyman Brian Barnwell acknowledged that his generation often forgets the sacrifices that were made by older veterans.
“That’s why it’s so important to do what we are doing today and share the memories of those who fought for our country,” Barnwell stressed.
Korean War veteran Constantino Carbone Jr., who helped lay the wreaths at each of the sites, noted that 36,752 American soldiers died in Korea.
“These kids gave their lives for freedom,” said Carbone, who served 15 months in combat and will be one of the grand marshals of next year’s Memorial Day Parade, which has been cancelled the last two years due to COVID. “But that’s what we were fighting for.”
Families of fallen soldiers lost in more recent wars also attended the services. Moura Hernandez and her son Juan came to Memorial Square to honor her brother Robert Rodriguez, who was only 21 when he was killed in Iraq in 2003.
Residents said the rain couldn’t dampen their commitment to pay their respects to those lives that were lost.
“They fought in the rain so we can come out in the rain to remember them.” said Marianne Kiskorne, who held a sign adorned with hearts and the words “Thank You.”
Two wreaths were later placed at the American Legion monument and the Civil War Memorial in Mount Olivet Cemetery.
Maryanna Zero, president of the United Veterans & Fraternal Organizations of Maspeth, said she feared the day would be a wash but felt proud that so many from the community participated.
“Next year we’ll have our parade,” Zero told the crowd, “a parade that is going to be not just the best of this borough, but the best of all boroughs.”
ER director recalls first wave of COVID cases
On Sunday, May 30, Teresa Amato will be honored at the Forest Hills Memorial Day Ceremony in Remsen Park.
Selected as one of this year’s grand marshals for her service to the community during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she is the director of the Forest Hills Emergency Room Department and a proud mother of six.
In March of last year, Forest Hills was hit with the first wave of coronavirus cases. While other hospitals in Northwell Health’s network saw a decrease in patients at the onset of the pandemic, for Long Island Jewish in Forest Hills it was the exact opposite.
Typically, the emergency room treats about 100 patients per day, but in March the hospital was taking on nearly 250 patients each and every day. Nearly all of them needed to be treated for coronavirus.
“At the height of it, 95 percent of the patients in the hospital had COVID,” Amato said. “The only sound you could hear in the department was the hissing of the oxygen.”
As patients showed up, Amato said the hospital had to quickly pivot to load balancing as it reached its capacity. Because there were no open beds for patients at Long Island Jewish, they were sent to other nearby hospitals in Northwell’s network.
Amato remembers the “cavalry” of ambulances that helped transfer patients, idling outside the hospital in a line that was so long it wrapped around the entire block.
“You have to have three things to take care of patients,” she said. “You need the space, the staff, and the equipment. We just ran out of space.”
For the first few weeks the entire hospital was running on adrenaline, according to Amato. However, she started to notice signs of fatigue among the staff as time went on.
“Everybody was laser-focused in the beginning,” Amato said. “But as the bombs keep coming and you don’t get sleep and you start to understand the danger, that constant adrenaline paralyzes you.”
The most important thing for her as a leader was to be adaptable, according to Amato. Her office became a changing room for healthcare workers overnight.
Personal protective equipment, like masks and face shields, were stacked up high in boxes along the walls.
The space also served as a place for healthcare workers to decompress during their long shifts and a charging hub for iPads that enabled patients to connect with their loved ones.
Amato recalls an elderly patient who just wanted to see the garden in her backyard one more time before she died.
“Those conversations were really tough and a lot to witness repeatedly,” said Amato. “You really were the eyes and ears to their family, and it felt like you were witnessing a sacred moment.”
When morale was low at the hospital, Amato said she could always turn to the community for support. She is grateful for the validation that the banging of pots and pans from nearby housing gave her nurses, and remembers being in her office the first time she heard people cheering.
“I was so used to everything being wrong, so I ran out of my office and people were screaming thank you and clapping,” Amato said. “It was a real boost.”
Amato worked around the clock until the situation was under control. After six straight weeks of working at the hospital without leaving, she decided to go home and visit her family for the first time since the pandemic began.
The first wave had already peaked at that time, but many including herself were just beginning to wrap their head around the situation.
“I went for a walk with my kids, and I ran into some women that I’m friends with that also live in my part of Queens,” Amato recalled. “They said they’ve seen stuff in the news about COVID, so they asked me how it really was. I didn’t even know what to say or how to explain, it’s like sharing a war story.”
Chain to serve as Grand Marshal
Heidi Harrison Chain will be honored this Sunday, May 30, at Remsen Park during this year’s Forest Hills Memorial Day Celebration.
Serving as the president of the 112th Precinct Community Council for over a decade, she is a lifelong resident of Queens. She will serve as one of the event’s grand marshals.
“As a daughter of a WWII veteran, to be honored in this capacity is a momentous moment that I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” she said. “I’ve participated in this parade for years upon years, so it’s really nice. I can imagine my father will be smiling down on me.”
Chain grew up in Rego Park but now lives in Forest Hills. She serves as a liaison between the local police force and the community.
Her focus is on outreach and providing essential information to residents of the precinct, from run-of-the-mill matters like changes to speed limits to more pressing issues like details on crime suspects.
Chain believes it’s essential to engage Forest Hills through whatever means possible, even if that’s digitally.
“The precinct council has a particularly important relationship to the people because its function is to be an intermediary,” she said. “In order for that to happen people have to be able to easily get a hold of you.”
During the pandemic, that’s exactly what happened. The council shifted gears quickly to address food insecurity because a lot of people were afraid to go outside and get groceries.
“In extreme emergencies cops actually went out and brought food to people’s homes,” Chain said.
Chain believes the annual Memorial Day celebration, which pre-pandemic included a parade down Metropolitan Avenue, is sacred to the spirit of the country and Forest Hills community.
“What we have to do as a society is honor those that died in service of our country so that everybody else can live in freedom,” she said. “We need to understand and honor the people who gave their lives.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no Little Neck/Douglaston Memorial Day parade this year.
However, there will be a dedication and wreath-laying ceremony at the Veteran Memorial by American Legion Post #103 on the grounds of St. Anastasia Parish near Alameda Avenue and Northern Boulevard in Douglaston.
It will take place on Memorial Day at 10:30 am.
There will be no parade, but we can still say a prayer for those serving our country today. We can also offer a moment of silence for all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to keep us free.
Frederick R. Bedell, Jr.
The Forest Hills Memorial Day Ceremony is only a few weeks away, and organizers met together last Wednesday at the American Legion Continental Post 1424 to conduct their final preparations for the event.
The occasion will take place on Sunday, May 30, in Remsen Park and pay tribute to all the men and woman who have died while in the U.S. military. Slated to go on for just over an hour, the event will be filled with music, speeches, and honors.
This year, the ceremony will not only recognize fallen service members but will also honor the sacrifice of frontline workers. Members of the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps will be honored at the event for their efforts in saving the local community from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Michael Arcati is commander of Post 1424 and has been a major force in organizing this year’s ceremony. He served in the navy for a combined total of eight years as both a prosecutor and defense counsel. Specializing in international, criminal, and tax law, he’s been awarded the Bronze Star among other military accolades. It was his goal to extend Memorial Day to as many people as possible. “This event is not just for the veterans but for the community and the service that is central to how it functions.”
Arcati couldn’t envision honoring sacrifice this year without paying homage those who grappled with the pandemic on behalf of Queens, especially those from the volunteer ambulance service. “Like a military they lined up side by side, and put their lives on the line without question,” he said. “These people never asked for a dime, and they need to be recognized.”
Event organizers have also announced their 2021 Grand Marshals for the event. This year there are four honorees: Dr. Teresea Amato, Heidi Chain, Bob Simpson, and Captain Joseph Cappelmann. The selection represents a cross section of public service that is vital to New York, including the director of Forest Hill’s largest emergency room department and the commanding officer of New York’s 112th Precinct.
For many service members Memorial Day is not only a time to honor lost connections but also reconnect with those who have also served. Arcati said he expects to see plenty of familiar faces from Post 1424 at the ceremony. “We have over 100 veterans at Post 1424, and for some of our more senior members it’s the only way for them to socialize and find comradery with their brothers and sisters.”
Vice Commander of Post 1424 Pat Conley has been a member of the organization for over ten years and has seen hundreds of hours go into planning this year’s ceremony. Conley said he’s thankful that the veteran community has been getting their vaccines. “Our members are of all ages and backgrounds, but it’s awesome to see that everyone who needs it is already pretty much double-vaccinated at this point. I think it will be a tremendous celebration and a good day for the community.”
The laying of the wreaths is a pillar of military tradition in the United States and will happen at the end of the ceremony. There are a handful of veterans from Post 1424 that will be honored at that time and have the bell rung in their name as attendees pay their formal respects.
There were countless volunteers who helped make this year’s event a reality, according to Arcati. Whether it was small tasks like putting up flags or bigger responsibilities like manning the grill, he said there was an outpouring of support. “Veterans want to continue serving, even when they’re done with their military obligations, but it’s really wonderful to see people take time out of their schedules to come in and help out.”