Last Monday, community residents, leaders, family, and friends gathered at 114th Street and 85th Avenue in Richmond Hill to honor the life and legacy of Ivan Mrakovcic with a co-street renaming.
Mrakovcic, who died in 2020 after battling brain cancer, is remembered for his contributions to the community; he was an architect, preservationist, community leader, historian, activist, and the co-founder and president of The Richmond Hill Historical Society.
He also served as treasurer for the Forest Park Trust, chairperson of Community Board 9 for five years, and as a founding board member of the Friends of QueensWay Park advocacy group.
Arranged by Councilwoman Lynn Schulman, the street where his wife, Laura, and their two daughters, Hannah and Emma, still live was co-named ‘Ivan Mrakovcic Way.’
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz reflected on her time as Queens Borough President and her interactions with Mrakovcic.
“When Ivan came into Community Board 9, we were very happy to have someone show leadership, who understood the community, was able to negotiate and sit down at the table and get things done for the community,” Katz said.
“We didn’t agree on everything. We had our debates and our issues, but at the end of the day, we always supported each other,” she continued. “Ivan cared about the historic neighborhood of Richmond Hill and the history of our community.”
Mrakovcic’s preservation efforts and advocacy led to the establishment of the Historic District in North Richmond Hill on the New York State and National Historic registers in 2019.
In his honor, William Gati, an architect, Richmond Hill Historical Society member, former Community Board 9 member, and one of Mrakovcic’s closest friends, started the
Ivan Mrakovcic Scholarship Fund at the High School For Construction Trades, Engineering And Architecture in Ozone Park.
He did so to pay homage to his friend, and give back to local youth in a way he knows Mrakovcic would have loved if he were still alive.
“It’s all really bittersweet; I wish he were here instead of the street being named after him,” Gati said.
“The reason this is so special is the people that came and were a part of his life, and how he touched their lives,” he continued. “Ivan was very kind, and he didn’t rule with a heavy fist, he ruled with kindness.”
Sherry Algredo, chairperson of Community Board 9, also remembers Mrakovcic for his kind and welcoming personality, and assisted in making the street co-naming happen along with Faiuze Ali, CB9’s Transportation & Traffic chairperson.
“When I first came to the board, Ivan was one of the first people to greet me and make me feel welcome. When he told me about the chicken coop he kept in his yard, I identified with that, coming here from Trinidad and Tobago,” Algredo said. “It resonated with me then, and means a lot to me now as chair of Community Board 9.”
Regina Schaefer Santoro, a real estate agent who works with Mrakovcic’s wife, Laura, said that he will not only be remembered for his contributions to the community and kind personality, but also for how unique and quirky he always was.
“One day, he put a tinfoil cap on his head in the middle of a thunderstorm. We toasted s’mores over it because we lost power while we were away on vacation,” she said.
“He was a crazy, quirky guy; he was the first one to be at a party, and the last to leave,” she continued. “He also always wore the craziest, funniest costumes on holidays. And of course, he was known for his chickens. He was in it to make people laugh.”