2005-10-14 / Front Page

Tribute Park Opening Set

By Brian Magoolaghan

A date has been set for the long awaited opening of Tribute Park, which was transformed this year from a barren lot to perhaps the most stunning public spot along Rockaway’s bayfront, the Chamber of Commerce announced this week.

“We’re going to send invitations up and down the line,” said a cheery Chamber of Commerce President John Lepore. “We’re extending an open invitation to the public. It’s their park and it will be a happy day when we can finally turn it over to them,” he added.

The Chamber needs the public’s help to reach their most important guests: the families of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. It appears that a comprehensive contact list does not exist, so organizers are hoping that families will read about the opening and contact the Chamber’s office by calling (718) 634-1300 or by e-mail at RockawayCham-ber@AOL.com.

Joanie Omeste, the Chamber’s Executive Director, was designing invitations – and trying to figure out how many to order – on Wednesday. They will be mailed out late this week or early next week, she said.

Omeste, who prefers to leave the park’s public relations to Lepore, could not help but share her enthusiasm for the park with The Wave. “It’s so much nicer than I believe anyone envisioned it, and that’s what I’m hearing from the community,” she said. “I’m very happy to be here when this is happening.”

With just three weeks remaining until Tribute Park is opened, three major elements remain unfinished: the installation of the commemorative bricks, the installation of the ornamental gate and the on-site assembly of the dome. Community members have in the past voiced concern over a lack of progress at the site, but concern is being replaced more and more each day by anticipation as the completion of the project becomes imminent.

Some park watchers, like Wave reader Mary Whelan, have noticed that while the park is fully bricked, none of the commemorative bricks were used.

“Having purchased two bricks, I am anxious to hear something about their installation,” she posted last week in the reader comment section of The Wave’s website, www.Rockawave.com.

Project Coordinator Dan Mundy said the installation of the commemorative bricks, some 574 of them, will begin next week. They were not laid down with the original brickwork because careful consideration as to how they should be grouped and positioned was still needed.

“This is for the brothers that were lost and I have to make sure this gets done in a proper way,” said Mundy, a retired New York City Firefighter. He seemed more steadfast than ever when he spoke with The Wave this week. “We just have to make sure we get everything done by [opening day],” said Mundy, who is largely responsible for kick-starting the project and coordinating all of the work at the site. But despite Mundy’s determination, doubt still looms over whether the Tribute Park dome will be finished by opening day.

Artist Patrick Clark has been busy at the site completing the mariner’s compass and the firefighter’s memorial rock, but was uncertain as to whether he could finish the dome on time. Clark strangely suggested that he might not be finished with the dome until the day after the opening when he contacted The Wave after hearing the news that a date had been set. Both Mundy and Lepore said they were pleased with Clark’s progress thus far, but expressed concern over the dome. They did, however, say that the opening would move forward whether or not the dome was finished.

The last major element, the park’s ornamental gate, should arrive soon, Mundy said. It will replace the rusty cyclone fencing that is clearly substandard now that the park has begun to glisten behind it. Mundy was ready this week to deliver a certified check to the local manufacturer and was eager to oversee installation. He was confident the gate would be up by opening day.

Tribute Park is slated to open on Sunday, November 6, according to the Chamber of Commerce. The invitation says refreshments will be served at 2 p.m. with the ceremony beginning promptly at 2:30 p.m.

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