It’s time to deck the hall, according to a Queens man with a plan for honoring the Big Apple’s best residents.
a city known for its museums, longtime Flushing resident Albert Stern saw a
major opportunity to make his cultural contribution.
decided to found and organize the New York City Hall of Fame.
been very fortunate, and to my way of thinking, when you are fortunate and
the city you have lived in has helped you be fortunate, then you must give
something back. That
is my whole philosophy, so to speak,” Stern told the Tribune.
with a group of friends-turned-trustees, Stern officially formed the
non-profit group Friends of the New York City Hall of Fame just over a year
then the institution has become a virtual reality with plans to locate in
the physical heart of New York City— right here in Queens.
The inspiration for the New York City Hall of Fame came to Stern during an idle moment between batters in a televised baseball game, when the announcer mentioned the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
it just struck me funny and I said, ‘Hey, that’s not a bad idea.
How about a New York City Hall of Fame?’” Stern recalled.
“But I said wait a minute, there must be New York City Hall of
an Internet search and a little poking around, Stern determined that —
despite legions of celebrated residents and historic figures — New York
City did not have its own hall of fame.
more remarkable, Stern could not find any major city with a hall of fame
devoted to the achievements of its citizens.
events of Sept.
11 not only sharpened Stern’s desire to create the hall of fame, but also
convinced him to devote the hall to the extraordinary but anonymous strivers
as much as to the celebrated personalities of the Big Apple.
the heroic recovery effort around the World Trade Center, Stern hoped the
hall of fame could “take pride in the people that live in the city and
that do good works in the city that are never recognized,” he explained.
“They live and die in the city,
and nobody ever heard of them.”
a result, Stern and his fellow trustees decided to “do something a bit
different” from other halls of fame, which focus on success in a
New York City Hall of Fame, Stern determined, would “recognize individuals
who have contributed to the betterment of New York City.
And we decided that it would be both celebrity as well as the average
John Doe or Jane Doe.”
The criteria for acceptance into the New York City Hall of Fame, as Stern frames it, are fairly open-ended, allowing the trustees to evaluate nominees on a case by case basis. “We decided that the people that would be inducted into the New York City Hall of Fame would have to be people of principle and integrity,” Stern explained. “Now let me clarify that: we’re not looking for saints. You want saints, go to the Vatican!”
this way, Stern made it clear that notoriety itself would not land a nominee
in the hall, but important contributions alone would not be the ticket
his hall of fame, Stern wants to celebrate individuals with overall positive
Stern also decided that organizations would also be eligible for induction
into the hall of fame.
order to assist in the evaluation process, Stern also added the prerequisite
of community recognition.
said, “One of the criteria is that the person has had to have received
recognition from a legitimate source,” which include governmental and
civic organizations as well as newspapers.
the Friends of the New York City Hall of Fame continue to raise money and
evaluate nominations, the website will serve as the virtual hall of fame in
which the public can learn about those already inducted and help support the
eventually, Stern plans to construct a state-of-the-art building.
are going to do something that’s very, very unusual,” he said.
“The physical museum will not be located in Manhattan.
It will be located, of all places, in Woodside, Queens.”
this may seem an unorthodox location for a museum with citywide appeal,
Stern has a significant reason for his choice. He said, “Most people are
not aware of the fact that Woodside, Queens is the geographical center of
New York City.”
the fundraising activities move ahead, Stern has his eye on a museum
construction date of three years down the road.
the meantime, the New York City Hall of Fame will hold periodic induction
ceremonies, much like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame did while awaiting
construction of its Cleveland museum.
first induction ceremony is scheduled for next spring, Stern said, and
inductees will receive plaques in lieu of their permanent exhibit in the
Stern’s plan calls for an ambitious final design.
is something we’ve been working on for a long time and we feel that if we
bring it to fruition it will be such an attraction that our reputation will
become very well known,” Stern explained.
“Each inductee will be developed into a hologram.
It will be encased in a large plastic case, and all the things that
are involved in the inductee will be in the hologram.”
completed as he envisions it, Stern is confident the New York City Hall of
Fame will become a one-of-a-kind museum in a city known for unique
to Stern, the New York City Hall of Fame is in a critical fundraising period
presently, which has been made more difficult by the sluggish economy.