By The Times/Ledger
He was there last week to welcome a mobile asthma van from Elmhurst Hospital when it made its maiden voyage to Roy Wilkins Park. And he was there last year when leaders from southeast Queens gathered at York College to discuss a project designed to make the young people of the area more aware of the accomplishments of African Americans. In this part of Queens, Solomon Goodrich is everywhere. He may not think much of “the system” but he has learned to work with it.
Roy Wilkins Park and its vibrant community center are a tribute to the determination and ingenuity of Mr. Goodrich. Fighting against great odds, Mr. Goodrich and the Southern Queens Park Association have worked tirelessly to build an institution that would serve the community. Today the Roy Wilkins Community Center is alive with activity seven days a week, from early in the morning to late at night. The basketball court and indoor swimming pool are in near constant use. The building also serves as a day-care center, a senior center, a home for the Black Spectrum Theater and a school where new immigrants and others can study for their GED. All this was done with minimal support from the government.
The nonprofit Park Association took over the property when it was offered to the city by the Naval Hospital. When the city said it was interested in the site, Mr. Goodrich and his coalition volunteered to run the park. They knew just how badly the community needed this park.
In the middle of the community center is a courtyard honoring famous African Americans from Roy Wilkins to Ossie Davis. It is mostly black children who come to this building and Mr. Goodrich has worked hard to expose them to inspiring appropriate role models.
Mr. Goodrich has done a remarkable job for the people of southeast Queens. On the foundation that he and countless others have laid, it is our hope that in the 21st century southeast Queens will blossom. The problems of poverty and violence no longer appear insurmountable. Serious crime has declined remarkably and joblessness citywide is at a record low. But if the future is bright, and we believe it is, it is because of men like Solomon Goodrich who stood by southeast Queens through the most difficult years, always believing in the potential of its people.
The good box
Remember when almost everyone said that if the city allows the gigantic “box stores” to open in Queens, they would kill off the small businessman. Glen Oaks, has found that this ain't necessarily so.
Last year a Big Kmart opened at the Glenn Oaks Mall. Before the first Blue Light Special, the Chicken Littles were running around proclaiming, “There goes the neighborhood!” But guess what, the mom-and-pop stores say that, at worst, there has been no ripple effect. At best, the Kmart has turned the strip into boomtown. The manager of the nearby Waldbaum's Supermarket said he is getting a thousand new customers a week.
None of this should be surprising. The “box stores” attract new shoppers to an area. Stores and restaurants that see this as an opportunity are prospering. In addition, these stores keep local residents from travelling to other communities to shop. Hopefully this will allay some of the fears of the community activists who are opposing the opening of a multiplex theater and chain stores on Merrick Boulevard.
In the years to come, the people of Queens will have to re-examine their attitudes toward expansion and economic growth. Hopefully, they will see the potential of attracting such investment.