By Kathianne Boniello
With startling sunshine, cool breezes and loud music in the air the residents of Bell Park Manor-Terrace in Bellerose spent their summery Saturday afternoon celebrating the 50th anniversary of their community.
It took about a year of planning to arrange the celebration for the complex, which is comprised of roughly 200 apartment near the intersection of Braddock and Hillside avenues, said Kirby Lindell, president of the complex’s board of directors.
“It’s been a very special year,” Lindell said. “We’re here to pay tribute to all the people who have been here.”
Bell Park Manor-Terrace was originally built in 1951 as affordable housing for the country’s veterans, and many of the original tenants were on hand for Saturday’s celebration.
Joe Himmelfarb, an original Bell Park Manor-Terrace resident who moved in with his wife Esta in 1951, had his own thoughts on the anniversary celebration.
“To me, it’s been the most ideal place in the world,” Himmelfarb said as children laughed and played around him and neighbors socialized nearby. “It should have been replicated on a large scale. It’s perfect — it’s got everything you could want.”
For Florence Jacobs, also an original tenant, the Bell Park of today looks a lot like the Bell Park of 1951 — with one exception.
“I think it’s gotten nicer,” she said with a smile.
Sisters Ruth and Esther Jacobson along with their friends Selma and Monty Leschen, spent part of Saturday remembering how the originally Bell Park community helped develop the surrounding area.
Ruth Jacobson described how the community residents helped get nearby Martin Van Buren High School built, created a credit union for the apartment complex and formed their own nursery school and day camp.
“We made it like a paradise,” she said.
Kathy Taylor, president of the Bell Park Manor-Terrace Community Council, said: “it’s our 50th anniversary and we are proud.”
Taylor credited the original residents of the complex and said “we’re just keeping it going. We have a lot of the originals still here, and that says something.”
One of those originals, Aaron Jarit, credited the newer tenants with maintaining Bell Park Manor-Terrace’s quality of life.
“We had a greater influx of diversity,” Jarit said. “My neighbors are Haitian, Indian and Spanish — and we get along fabulously.”
Some of those new neighbors, George and Marie Sirkisoon, sat outside to enjoy the celebration.
“We moved here in 1999 from Queens Village,” George Sirkisoon said. “It’s very nice — they keep it very clean, it’s a beautiful neighborhood and the people are very nice.”
Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.