|1970 - A
Newspaper Is Born
great idea begins with someone brave, imaginative and ridiculous enough
to think it. The brave mind whose imagination lead to the birth of the
Queens Tribune and the ridiculous amount of hard work and love necessary
to create a community newspaper belongs to Gary Ackerman.
with then-Mayor John Lindsay outside The Tribune’s first
simply, Ackerman loved writing, he loved the news and he loved to be in
the middle of things. While at Queens College, he was the editor of the
school newspaper called The Castle and he describes himself as a
“full time organization person” on campus.
graduation, he began teaching at JHS 142 in South Jamaica. His new
principal offered him the opportunity to be faculty advisor for the
newspaper and – excited – he wondered how a new teacher got to be so
lucky. The principal said his daughter went to Queens College and told
him Ackerman was the man for the job. Ackerman proved the daughter
right, and the school paper started winning awards and then took first
place in the Columbia scholastic journalism awards.
explained that while he was teaching, he conceived of the idea of a
community newspaper for Queens, even as his wife Rita conceived their
A Community Newspaper?
perceived that there was a need in the community,” Ackerman explained
simply. “Growing up in Queens and being active in many civic
organizations I knew that [those groups] never got publicity for the
good things they do. Little space was dedicated to the local stuff”
and something was needed to “fill that void,” he said.
editorial meeting with Mayor Lindsay in the old newsroom. Richard Brown
– then the mayor’s aide and currently the Queens District Attorney
– is on the left.
there were obstacles.
of the biggest was trying to convince businesses that they should take
an ad in something that didn’t exist yet, and that was soon followed
by trying to get them to pay for the advertisement they had run. But
Ackerman didn’t let the challenge discourage him. He knew that his
newspaper, reaching 50,000 people through door-to-door delivery, was
going to cost them less and get them more exposure for their dollar than
the dailies with city-wide runs could do.
Flushing Tribune was launched in February 1970 as a monthly, free
distribution newspaper, and Ackerman “called everybody I knew who had
kids.” He dispatched an army of Trib delivery kids and worked
himself all weekend every weekend that the paper came out. “I had a
knack for it. I don’t know if I did [the newspaper] the right way or
the wrong way, but I did it the way I wanted to do it . . . .with
first eight-page issue was distributed door to door in downtown
Flushing. Ackerman and his two partners, Henry J. Levy and Alan Manheim,
would get together in the back room of a real estate office after school
hours to assemble the news for the paper. By mid-year, the paper had
grown to some 32 pages and was issued on a bi-weekly basis. The paper
had begun selling subscriptions to offset the growing costs of the paper
and to increase circulation and ad revenues.
time, Ackerman invested in buying typesetting machines rather than
taking the paper to someone to typeset. Once that investment was made,
he thought, “Why should these machines sleep at night . . . they could
be doing other jobs,” and another revenue stream was born.
from the first issue there was an overwhelming flow of press releases,
volunteer writers and volunteer photographers, all proving Ackerman’s
point that his paper was filling a community need. Ackerman described
the long list of prominent writers who got their start at the Trib
– in either the news room or on the delivery route – and said it is
common for him to run into “Queens Tribune Alumni” in federal
agencies and working for major dailies.
began the pioneer in the Queens community newspaper world. “We created
an industry,” Ackerman recalled, and with that industry came the
frightening prospect of competition. The Bayside Times existed in
those days, Ackerman said, but they were under different ownership and
weren’t doing the good journalism they do today. And when other
weeklies started to form, they “got me a bit nervous,” Ackerman
admits. But he believes that they only proved “American free
enterprise really works. They were out there telling people that
weeklies work” and cutting back on the education Ackerman had to give
are now other very good newspapers in Queens . . . all that competition
is healthy for business and healthy for journalism,” Ackerman said,
and looking back at his third of a century in the newspaper business, he
reports that his proudest moment is still “when that first paper came
In The Beginning
. . .
Tribune’s first edition headlined a local school board battle
in Flushing’s School District 25. In addition, ground was broken for a
new school in “the hither-to idle” Kissena Corridor Park to help
alleviate the great influx of children who came with the recent arrival
of large apartment buildings. The school, completed in 1976, is today
the Rachel Carson Intermediate School 237.
first news photo on page three showed then-Queens Borough President
Sidney Leviss handing over his local Democratic district leadership post
to a young City Councilman from Flushing, Donald R. Manes. As the Trib
reported, Manes said, “We can no longer afford the luxury of
nominating men who are anything but the best…As a public official I
can see clearly that the Democratic Party must select candidates who are
responsive to its long tradition of just political leadership.”
Tribune’s first editorial complained about a problem affecting
Flushing tenants who were being cheated out of interest owed to them on
their rent deposits. Another editorial sarcastically congratulated the
Transit Authority on the swiftness with which it put into effect the new
30 cent bus and subway fare, comparing that with the long delayed
straphangers experience waiting for trains on the #7, E and F lines.
paper reported on a protest by the Kissena Corridor Civic Association
over plans by Booth Memorial Hospital to expand its facility. The first
edition featured a movie review of the recently released film, “Easy
Rider,” starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and a new face, Jack
Nicholson. The review said the film was “one of the least entertaining
films in local movie theaters today.”
the ads in the first issue was a half-page advertisement for Manes
Volkswagen in Jamaica (owned by Donald Manes’ twin brother Morty) and
depicting the famous Volkswagen “bug” car. A full-page ad promotes
Gary Ackerman’s candidacy for the local school board election. The
back page featured a full-page advertisement for Jewel Pharmacy,
promoting a bottle of 100 Bufferin or Excedrin aspirins for 99 cents.
store address is shown as 46-27 Kissena Blvd. in Flushing. Within a
year, the Tribune would grow to larger quarters in its very own
office – located at the very same address that had been occupied by
the Jewel Pharmacy.
the Tribune’s issue in March, the paper featured a special
six-page supplement on the upcoming school board elections containing
pictures, biographies and statements by all of the candidates. This
would become a Tribune election tradition continued through all
. . And Beyond
second issue jumped to 20 pages and reported on teacher concerns at John
Bowne High School that undercover agents, posing as students, were being
assigned to the school. “Drunkenness and the use of marijuana and more
potent drugs are occurring with disturbing frequency in the school,”
one teacher told the Tribune…An effort was begun to save the
historic 1960s-era Flushing Town Hall from sale or demolition and turn
it into a youth center. Local merchants wanted the building – then
abandoned and housing vagrants – to be demolished for a new Flushing
municipal parking lot…
April, plans were developed for a large celebration in Flushing Meadows
Park to celebrate the 325th anniversary of the founding of the town…
St. Joseph’s Convent was demolished over the protests of people who
wanted to preserve the structure on Sanford Avenue along with its large
surrounding park-like grounds. Court battles were begun to prevent the
construction of a shopping center at the building. It later became
Korvettes department store and a large apartment building…
Trib ran its first play review of the seventh Dolly Levi –
Ethel Merman – performing in “Hello Dolly” on Broadway…
Trib’s first sports column appeared with the headline “The
Flushing Mets: Amazins’ Try Repeat Performance,” referring to the
hope that the Mets could recapture the magic of the previous year’s
1969 World Series miracle….
May, Borough President Leviss blasted plans by Mayor John Lindsay to
impose tolls on all the East River bridges…
July, the Trib ran a front page editorial supporting the proposal
by concerned Flushing residents for a desperately needed drug referral
center for the area…
September, the drive for a Greater Flushing Drug Center succeeded with
the opening of a facility on Parsons Boulevard…
drive to save the left-over World’s Fair buildings in Flushing
Meadows-Corona Park from demolition and convert them into a Queens
cultural and recreational center began with the formation of a civic
activist group to preserve the park’s history and facilities.
City informed angry local merchants and commuters that it will be “at
least four years” before the long-awaited Flushing Bus Terminal will
be constructed to alleviate the lines and congestion in downtown
Memorial Medical Center opened its major new extension building in
From The Past
on your 33rd Birthday. As Borough President at that time, I was proud to
witness the birth of a sorely needed local newspaper.
Retired New York
Supreme Court Justice
photo by Ira Cohen
remember Congressman Gary Ackerman as a young schoolteacher who had the
fortitude and vision to found the Queens Tribune.
began reading the Queens Tribune from its inception in 1970, and
I continue to read it every week.
on the good work; we have both continued to age gracefully.