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Queens Chronicle

Plans announced for visitor center

Comm. Board 7 approves historic Bowne House building project

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Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:11 am, Thu Nov 7, 2013.

During its monthly meeting on Monday night, Community Board 7, in two separate overwhelming votes, approved proposals for the construction of a visitor center at Flushing’s historic Bowne House and the co-naming of a street to honor a local family.

Julie Nymann, deputy director of Architecture Capital Projects for the Parks Department, made a PowerPoint presentation detailing the proposed design for the new visitor center on the Bowne House property, which she said serves as a “reminder of the nation’s religious history.”

Bowne House, built in 1661, was the location of Quaker meetings that resulted in the arrest of its owner, John Bowne. Allowing the Quakers to meet defied an edict by New Amsterdam Mayor Peter Stuyvesant.

The new building, Nymann said, “will impact the site as little as possible for historic purposes.” It will be smaller than the house itself and “as far back from the house as possible.”

A one-floor structure, the building will reach one and one-half stories in height and measure 1,250 square feet, or 400 square feet smaller than originally planned, according to Nymann. It will be “simple, modest, low-key,” she added.

Some trees that are in poor health as well as some in “strategic locations” will be taken down during the construction process.

Nymann indicated that no additional site lighting will be added, as the new building will not be lit up at night.

Parks will now present the design to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for approval, following which the department will be able to estimate the date construction will begin.

The center will provide a space for school groups and other visitors to learn about the house. Plans include a gallery, exhibits, accessible restroom facilities and an administrative office.

The motion to approve the plan carried unanimously.

Passing almost as easily, despite some opposition, was a proposal to rename 35th Avenue as Manford Family PFLAG Way.

Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), filling in for the district’s council- man, Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), who is facing federal corruption charges, spoke in favor of the co-naming of the street.

The family’s matriarch, Jeanne Manford, became the first mother of record to openly stand up for equal rights for a gay son, marching in the burgeoning Gay Pride Parade. That act, according to Dromm, “became the first step in the worldwide movement known as PFLAG,” or Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Putting the movement’s founder in historical perspective, the openly gay Dromm dubbed her the “Rosa Parks of the Gay Pride Movement.”

Manford died at 92 in January with the knowledge that she was to receive the Presidential Citizens Medal for exemplary deeds of service for her fellow citizens.

Also speaking on behalf of the renaming was 26th Assembly District Leader Matthew Silverstein, who said, “Mrs. Manford took people in and gave them shelter. She lived her whole life in our community. She made an extreme impact in our community.”

Speaking against the proposal during the public hearing on the issue, James Trikas said, “I’m astounded by this. It opens the door for many problems.” Trikas believes street namings should be reserved for individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the military.

“Put a plaque somewhere,” he said, as a way of honoring the Manfords. “Landmark their house.”

There was also opposition from one board member, Nicholas Corrado, who sided with Trikas, suggesting street renamings should be reserved for members of the military, Police and Fire departments.

The board voted 30-1 to approve the naming, which would mean adding street signs with the phrase “Manford Family PFLAG Way” to existing poles.

A representative for the Taxi and Limousine Commission made a short presentation to the board, outlining some of the regulations surrounding the new outer-borough taxis, or green cabs, which are able to pick up hailing passengers.

The cars may be hailed or prearranged, the speaker said. The fare for such a taxi is the same as for the yellow taxis.

An update on the planned redevelopment at Willets Point suggested that 872 of the 2,500 planned units of housing will be affordable. It was also reported that funding for proposed Van Wyck ramps connected to the project is now in the capital budget for 2019.

City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) was on hand to introduce his new chief of staff, Jonathan Chung.

Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing)indicated his office is working on legislation to challenge the Common Core State Standards, which dictate what students are expected to learn.

He also invited those in attendance to contact his office at (718) 939-0195 for further information on the Home Energy Assistance Program and on registration for the homeowners’ STAR tax exemption.

Welcome to the discussion.