It took nearly a decade, but a memorial to Queens’ Vietnam War veterans will become a reality at last.
During this morning’s Memorial Day observance at Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens, Borough President Melinda Katz announced that the Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial project is fully funded and ready to move forward.
The monument will be constructed at Elmhurst Park, the 6.2-acre public green space that opened in 2011 at the former site of the Elmhurst Gas Tanks. Members of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) Chapter 32 — under its president, Pat Toro, who died in 2014 — worked to convince the Parks Department to allocate a part of the site for the creation of a memorial dedicated to the 420 Queens residents who lost their lives in the conflict.
Katz — then a City Council member — secured $500,000 in city funding in 2008 for the memorial’s creation. The Parks Department also agreed to place the memorial in a corner of the park near the intersection of Grand Avenue and 79th Street.
When the Great Recession struck the city between 2008 and 2009, construction of Elmhurst Park moved forward — but plans for the Vietnam Veterans memorial there were stalled. Now as the borough president, Katz was able to secure the remaining $1.5 million in capital funds needed to fully fund the memorial’s creation.
“More veterans call Queens home than any other borough, and the Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial will be a fitting and dignified tribute to those who served,” Katz said. “Freedom is not free, and with the memorial, their service will be appropriately recognized and remembered for generations to come.”
Two Queens residents who served in Vietnam and now hold leadership positions at the VVA expressed pride that the project will move forward.
“It is important that we have a memorial that honors all of the Queens residents who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam,” said VVA Chapter 32 President Michael O’Kane. “Borough President Katz deserves to be commended for putting the funding in place that will make this much-needed memorial a reality.”
VVA National President John Rowan, an Elmhurst native, added that while Vietnam War veterans never got the recognition they deserved during the conflict, the memorial would “help address that historical wrong by honoring all Queens residents who gave their lives in that conflict.”
Now that the $2 million in funding has been secured, the project will enter the design phase. The Parks Department will work in close consultation with the VVA on how the memorial will look.
There is no timetable set on when the monument would be constructed and opened.