2004-04-30 / Front Page

Tribute Park Hits City Snag

By Brian Magoolaghan

Tribute Park Hits City Snag

By Brian Magoolaghan

The city’s Art Commission must review the plans for Tribute Park before construction on the past-due project can continue – leaving surprised organizers unsure if the process will prove to be a pebble in the road or a landmine.

The commission, an 11-member panel which meets monthly at City Hall, is expected to review the park’s stained glass dome, engraved firefighter tribute boulder and the park’s ornamental gate. They can approve, disapprove, conditionally approve or table the plans.

Readers may recall that the Art Commission took issue with the Doughgirl statue that stands near the 100 Precinct on Rockaway Beach Boulevard, which raised concern that the longstanding monument might be moved.

"This was a bit of a surprise," said Chamber of Commerce President John LePore, who told The Wave that he and other Tribute Park planners hoped the project would fly under the radar as a community garden.

Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska said he doesn’t expect the commission will cause "a major problem," but told The Wave, "Every time you bring the project before another review board it adds time."

That could paralyze the project just as activity is set to warm up. Many of Tribute Park’s design elements and construction phases are contingent upon one another: The dome must be installed before the flowers around it can be planted, and landscapers recommend doing that in the spring or fall, for example. Any hold-up in the process, which crept along through the cold winter, could trigger a series of complications pushing the opening date further into the future, LePore said.

Economics is also a factor. Hundreds of Tribute Park bricks and $100,000 worth of fancy light fixtures are being stored locally at a cost of about $300 per month, according to LePore.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Department of Parks and recreation, the city agency overseeing the park, called the Art Commission review "standard procedure." LePore said he was only notified by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation about four weeks ago via e-mail. Meanwhile, the plans for the park have been complete for more than a year, and the construction of many of the key elements is well underway. The firefighter’s helmet, which is carved in the top of the memorial boulder, is literally set in stone.

Silvia Alvarez, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, said the best-case scenario would be for the commission to grant preliminary approval to the park. She described the review process as "fairly quick," though she said re-design and resubmission is not unheard of.

The Tribute Park project, which was closely managed by Liz Sulik while she was the Chamber’s executive director, now appears to be on LePore’s shoulders. Joanie Omeste, the new executive director, is focused on a project to improve the business district on and around Beach 116 Street, according to LePore. Sulik said she is no longer apprised on a day-to-day basis.

The Chamber of Commerce has to deliver their plans by May 5 if the commission is to review them at their next meeting on May 19. A public comment period could follow on June 14.

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