By Katie McFadden
As the issue was tabled at last month’s Community Board 14 meeting, Tuesday’s meeting at the Knights of Columbus picked right back up with the subject of the future of the 9/11 Tribute Park’s central mosaic. Once again, the community came out strong to show support for allowing artist Patrick Clark to rebuild his piece that holds deep meaning to 9/11 families.
A representative from NYC Parks’ Arts & Antiquities division was once again on hand to lay out their recommendations for recreating Clark’s piece in a more durable material that would eliminate the glass mosaic aspect, or to remove the work and allow another artist to create a new piece at Tribute Park. “Should the artist wish to work with us, the funding would come from the community and the Friends of Tribute Park. If Patrick chooses not to work with us, we will submit a removal request and would grant the artist the right to remove the material,” the Parks representative said, adding that they support these options as they had mosaic experts advise them that the piece, if recreated, wouldn’t survive the elements in an area that sometimes sees flooding with saltwater from the bay.
A few community board members fought against Parks’ ultimatum. “That park is hallowed ground. It’s our little slice of Ground Zero. Option B scares the hell out of me. There has to be a way of restoring or keeping the design. At a previous meeting, Patrick Clark said he thinks he can restore and maintain it. Has he shown anyone how to do that?” Paul King said. The Parks rep responded, “He has not but based on recreation with the same material, we feel confident in saying, it will not last. We will face the same situation in a few years.”
CB member Karen Sloan-Payne said, “You haven’t given us an option to restore it. We’ve heard from the community over and over again. The community wants to restore it.” Her statement was met by applause by community members who came to show their support for letting Clark restore his original piece. The Parks rep shot back saying, “Restoration is not an option because it’s costly. It’s expensive and we wouldn’t want to put the community’s money toward something that will fail. Our unit ensures the longevity of these items. We don’t have a mosaicist on staff. Parks does not have the resources to maintain a mosaic.” Sloan-Payne responded, “It shouldn’t be your decision. It should be the decision of families who lost people on 9/11.”
CB member John Cori turned up the heat, telling Parks, “Either you’re lying or misinformed. Patrick has made every effort to let you know you can restore this. The artist knows how. He has the skill to redo it. The people of this community have the funds. Don’t talk for us. Please don’t act like a dictator. You come here and tell us what we’re going to do. It’s not right. It’s inappropriate, especially with the gravity of what this means to the community. It should be for the community, by the community and I can guarantee the funds will be raised by the community and I hope you give us the opportunity.”
During the public speaking segment of the meeting, several neighbors continued to support Clark’s piece and Clark himself was at the meeting to speak for three minutes. He claimed that the experts that Parks used to inspect his piece do not specialize in his method of mosaic art, Tiffany mosaic. He also continued to argue that his original piece was not maintained properly, which contributed to its current destroyed state. He also said that if he were given the ability to recreate the piece, he “can make the same thing better and seal it with more durable materials. It would be cheaper, quicker and better,” Clark said before his time ran out.
During the agenda item discussion on the matter, CB member Brian Heffernan argued with Parks, saying, “I don’t know that Parks can put themselves as the ultimate authority on what should be done. Walk up to the boardwalk. Paint is falling off, there’s cracks in the boardwalk, between the planks, the concrete glue has shrunk. If you walk one mile on the boardwalk, you think, who in their right mind thought this through? All the 9/11 families want this restored. They’re not asking Parks for money. If this falls apart 20 years from now, we’ll get it back up again. The boardwalk will fall apart, the benches are falling apart. This won’t be Parks’ loss because you won’t maintain it whether you rebuild it or someone else does. Why does Parks care?”
Heffernan ended by making a motion for CB14 to communicate to Parks that they support the community’s wishes to have the Tribute Park mosaic restored and not replaced. With 19 CB14 members voting in favor of the motion, it carried. It is not clear how much weight CB14’s request will have when it comes to Parks’ ultimate decision, as CB14 is advisory. However, the community members who came to show support for the mosaic were grateful for CB14’s decision.
On other Parks issues, after mentioning subpar conditions of the maintenance of the beach over the summer, Cori made a motion for CB14 to write a letter to the Queens commissioner of Parks “to have current Rockaway administrator Eric Peterson spoken to, to listen more to the community and have better rapport with the community, respect our wishes and let him know these parks belong to our community.” With one no vote, the motion to write the letter carried.
The floor was then open to updates from local elected officials or their representatives and crime updates from the local precincts. Both precinct captains shared that overall, crime is down, but to be careful about leaving items or keys in cars, as theft has been a big concern.
During correspondence, Chairwoman Dolores Orr said a transportation committee meeting will be held on October 23 at 7 p.m. at the Knights for the committee to hear from new transportation company, Circuit, on their monthly report. She also said CB14 has receive three applications for cannabis store licenses, two on Beach Channel Drive near Beach 73rd Street, which would be within a few hundred feet of Arverne Pilgrim Church, and another on Beach 96th and Rockaway Beach Blvd. They will be discussed further in the future. Additionally, the search for longtime District Manager Jon Gaska’s replacement after he retired, is ongoing. Orr said they received applications from 12 locals but have not yet opened the resumes. They will be opened at a meeting strictly among CB14 members and all 12 candidates will later be interviewed.
The meeting concluded with budget discussions and some new and old business. CB Member Kimberly Comes brought up an issue about Inwood Material Terminal wanting to expand their business, which is affecting the Redfern Houses, as they are often subjected to dust and dirt coming into their homes and onto their cars in the area. CB Member Alison Kase also spoke of the good work the Campaign Against Hunger is doing with their urban farm on Beach 45th, their culinary program at Beach Green Dunes and an upcoming cyber program that will allow those in need to order specific food items to be delivered to them through the nonprofit.