By Bob Harris
On June 12, Bernie Diamond was honored at a dinner at Hillcrest Jewish Center for his 35 years of service as a member of Community Board 8. Comments by people at the dinner and my conversation with Bernie have developed a picture of a man who has devoted his life to community service.
Diamond was an educator. He started his career as an industrial arts teacher in School District 4 in East Harlem. He then moved up the ladder as a guidance counselor, dean, acting assistant principal, assistant principal and then principal of PS 206 and the Alternate Education Complex at JHS 117M. He was also involved with the supervisor’s union as a CSA district chairman and on the board of the CSA.
Notice how he rose through the ranks of his profession unlike today, when “90-day wonders” are trained to be supervisors in a classroom and have little or no experience in the classroom. He does not think well of the current education system.
For 15 years he had been president of the Hillcrest Estates Civic Association, currently run by Kevin Forrestal. Bernie was also chairman of the Queens Hospital Center Community Advisory Board. He described this time as “very fruitful years with many positive changes.” He advocated for what he believed should be done to maintain the quality of life for the community’s residents.
“You win some, you lose some, but you have to keep trying,” he said.
While he was on CB 8, he was chairman of the QHC Land Use, Liquor License and Health/Hospital committees, treasurer and an area chair.
Years ago, the bars along Union Turnpike near Main Street were noisy and disruptive. He brought in members of the state Liquor Authority to rein in the wildness around the bars near St. John’s University. He soon realized that unhappy homeowners have to create a paper trail by complaining to the SLA, the 107th Precinct, their local city councilman and CB 8.
He also fought to make sure that the new Gateway High School, built where the old morgue had stood on Goethals Avenue on the north side of QHC, was safe and compatible with the community. He worked to provide parking for the staff and made sure the toxic soil under the old morgue was removed, but he could not get the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to provide more public busses so children could get to school easily.
Diamond worked for the community for decades and then decided it was time to leave. He misses the interaction at CB 8 and the QHC advisory board in the same way he missed his education days, but keeps busy with Janet, his wife of 43 years.
“I gave back in part for all the benefits I received from NYC,” he said.