Robert Moses, for whom the term
Masterbuilder was coined, changed Queens perhaps more than anyone else this century.
Imagine the borough without Shea Stadium, the Unisphere, or the Triborough
Bridge. He also constructed the Long Island Expressway, the Grand Central and the Van
Wyck. The price tag of all his public works was 27 million dollars.
Working as the citys Parks Commissioner and later in other
capacities, Moses spearheaded the transformation of New York City into a motorists
city, without ever being elected to office.
This controversial figure was loved by some and hated by
othersincluding President Franklin Rooseveltwho ultimately brought the
The man who built more roads than anyone else in New York City never
learned to drive. He spent many of his days in the office he built overlooking the
Triborough bridge, watching cars cross his creation.
At the dedication of a large marble bench for reflection in Flushing
Meadow Park, Moses said "Let us sit on this bench and reflect on the gratitude of
Louis Armstrong, an American jazz legend, resided right here in
Corona. Called "Satchmo" for his big, smiling, "satchel" mouth,
Armstrong was beloved all the world round, to the extent that he was named the
International Ambassador of Goodwill.
As the story goes, Louis was away on business when his wife, Louise,
purchased the modest frame house in Corona where Armstrong would spend his best years.
Louis is said to have taken one look at the house before proclaiming "Im
His house, which is a historic landmark, is currently being transformed
into a museum. At the Louis Armstrong Archives at Queens College, a plethora of his prized
possessions and miscellaneous stuff is saved for posterity.
He brought jazz to the world. The whole world loved him, and he loved
Harry Van Arsdale, Jr. started out as a journeyman in the electrical
field, and soon went to the bat for the cause of the worker.
In 1962, after he had won a campaign for the five-hour workday, Van
Arsdale was criticized by inflation "experts" at the White House, President
Kennedy being one of them.
After studying the trade and holding several minor posts in the local, Van
Arsdale first distinguished himself in a battle against a Communist subgroup within Local
3 of the Electrical Workers Union.
Despite ill health which forced him to resign from his business manager
post in 1986, the South Ozone Park resident stayed active in Local 3, assuming the
position of financial secretary until his death. He was also President of New York
Citys Central Labor Council
Local 3 was responsible under Arsdale for the successful Electchester
housing development in Flushing. Jewel Avenue, which runs near the development, now bears
We almost lost the U.S. Open to Atlanta. In the 1970s, when the
facilities at the famed West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills proved inadequate for the
biggest tennis event in the nation, USTA President Slew Hester was pressured to move the
At first, the city was not very responsive to the problem, mainly because
they did not think there was a suitable location for a new stadium. But when Hester
learned of the largely unused Singer Bowl from the 1964 Worlds Fair, which had
recently been renamed for Louis Armstrong, Hester jumped at the chance to keep the event
in New York.
And stay it has, making Queens one of the international centers for
Able to capture urban grit in compelling prose, columnist Jimmy
Breslin not only chronicled Queens, he practically invented it.
Breslin seems to always find a unique angle to a story, most famously
after the assassination of President Kennedy, when he left the beaten track to profile the
man who was digging Kennedys grave.
And after covering politics so well, 30 years ago, he decided to enter the
fray himself. Running for City Council President as part of a ticket with even more
unlikely Mayoral candidate Norman Mailer, the two called for New York City to become the
51st state. Needless to say, they lost, and both returned to what they do better.
Unique characters, like "Haime the bookie" proved undoubtedly
that life is stranger than fiction. And while he left Forest Hills and the borough in
1982, the Pulitzer prize-winning columnist still regularly makes forays into the inner
world of Queens.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
To the rest of the world, and for better or for worse, he was and
still is Queens.
Archie Bunker, protagonist on Norman Lears landmark television show
"All in the Family," is the bigot for all time.
Portrayed by Carol OConnor, a Queens native and Newtown High School
graduate, Archie remains the stereotype that all Queens residents have to overcome when
LADY OF THE CHAMBER
Margaret "Peg" Swezey made Queens history in 1983 by
becoming the first woman in the 72-year history of the Queens Chamber of Commerce to be
elected president. She held the position until 1989.
One of the boroughs most visible people, Swezey was a member of the
Board of Directors and Vice President of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.
She was a life-long resident of Queens. Swezey was associated with
Citibank for over 32 years, rising from Junior Clerk to Vice-President of Citibank and
Director of Government Affairs.
Swezey chaired the annual Queens Day festival at Flushing Meadows-Corona
Park, and was chair and president of the Queens County Overall Economic Development
Corporation. In 1980 she received a plaque from President Jimmy Carter in the Rose Garden
of the White House as "Banker Advocate of the Year."
Swezey resided in Bayside until moving to Overland Park, Kansas. She died
there in 1994.
While in fact, there is no Queen of Corona, Paul Simon and his music
are inextricably connected to Queens.
Simon grew up in Forest Hills, with his friend Art Garfunkel. The two
graduated from Forest Hills High School in 1958. By that time, they already had their
first hit single, "Hey Schoolgirl," which sold 150,000 copies when it was
released under the alias Tom & Jerry.
The duo split in 1971, but their legacy continued and the pair was
inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
Moses M. Weinstein was a prominent jurist and politician. When he
became chairman of the Queens Democratic organization, he brought the party into
prominence among the five Democratic leaders in the city. State Assemblyman Weinstein
became the first Assembly speaker to hail from Queens.
Upon leaving the Assembly, and becoming a Supreme Court justice, Weinstein
rose rapidly to the Appellate division.
His legacy has been carried on by his sons Jeremy, who is head of the
Queens Civil Court, Peter, who is a judge in Florida, and Jonathan, who is a practicing
attorney in Queens.
MEET THE METS
Shortly after becoming the principal owner of the New York Mets,
Nelson Doubleday named Fred Wilpon President and CEO. Wilpon believed that New York was a
National League city and with a little time, effort and organization they could put a good
product on the field. Wilpon saw baseball as a critical fabric of New York, and made
winning a priority. Wilpon hired General Manager Frank Cashen. Together they rebuilt the
stumbling Mets franchise.
When they took over in the early 1980s, the Mets farm system was
talent-drained. They rebuilt the franchise by trading for former Mets Dave Kingman and Tom
Seaver, by trading for star George Foster. Later they acquired Keith Hernandez from the
Cardinals and Gary Carter from the Expos. In the minors the Mets were developing future
stars Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling. Joining them in New York was their
minor-league manager, Davy Johnson. Together Doubleday, Wilpon, Cashen and Johnson
resurrected the franchise, which resulted in their second world championship in 1986.