2009-10-09 / Top Stories

'We Should Treat Vets Like Gold'

Elderly Woman Balks At Removing American Flag
By Howard Schwach

McGillion outside her apartment with her American flag. McGillion outside her apartment with her American flag. An 88-year-old Rockaway Park woman has balked at management's request to take down an American flag that she has had on the wall of the hall outside of her seventh floor apartment for many years.

Margaret "Peggy" McGillion, who has lived at 1 Beach 105 in the Surfside Houses for more than 30 years, told The Wave that she got a strange telephone call from the management office on Monday.

"I have a favor to ask of you," the management office manager said. "I need you to take down your American flag for a few months, until after Christmas."

When McGillion asked why, she was told that her neighbor, who shares the wall with her and has three young children, wanted to put Halloween decorations up in place of the flag.

"I'm always willing to share," the elderly woman said. "But I think that we should treat our vets like gold and I think that kids have to learn to respect the flag. I told her that I wouldn't take down the flag."

McGillion, whose husband was in the Army Air Force during World War II and then served a career with the New York City Police Department, said that she is heartbroken over the controversy.

"I know that there are kids involved, and I love kids, but I still don't think that I should have to take down my flag for Halloween decorations."

Her neighbor, a retired police officer with three children, says that he honors the flag, but wants to satisfy the needs of his kids as well.

"I'm really big on holidays, the neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said." I have bins of decorations for each holiday, and the kids love it when we decorate. I lived on another floor for years, and always decorated from the end of the hall to the elevator. I wanted to do it again this year, and asked her to move the flag to a spot across from the elevators for a few months. Her daughter said no, so I asked the office to speak with her."

"Nobody owns the hallway, not me and not her," he added. "This is a sad situation. I have a flag on my terrace, and so does she.

There were no kids on our floor for years, and now there are. We really want to decorate for our kids and all the others in the building, and it has become a controversy. It's the kids who will miss out."

A spokesperson for Alma Realty, which owns and operates the threebuilding complex, said that the public hallway does not belong to her.

"I want to make sure that you under- stand that we in no way want to show disrespect to her husband or to anybody else," said the spokesperson, who asked not to be identified. "The flag takes up the whole wall that they share between the two apartments, and the kids are looking forward to the Halloween decorations."

"We never demanded that she take the flag down," she added. "We requested that she do so for the good of the children. Nobody was nasty to her or demanded anything."

What will happen if the flag is not removed?

The spokesperson for the realty company said that the lease all tenants sign and the company rules both forbid any decorations in any of the building hallways or on the terraces. These rules, however, have never been fully enforced, she said, adding that the company might now have to enforce the rules in order to be fair to all of the tenants.

"It would be unfortunate, but then we would have to enforce the rules and not allow any decorations at all in the hallway. We don't want to do that because many of our tenants love to decorate for the holidays, but we would be forced to."

Meanwhile, McGillion says that she is enlisting the assistance of veterans groups such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

"Vets should be respected," she said. "And, so should our flag."

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