Changing Of The Guard
On Jan. 1, the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) underwent a changing of the guard.
As the Times Newsweekly previously reported, Edward K. Wendell had served as president of the WRBA for four years. Though he remains on the organization’s board of directors, he has been replaced at the helm by Martin Colberg. Ed welcomed this change and views it as an opportunity, both for the WRBA to continue its and growth and for him to serve Woodhaven in other ways.
I could not let Ed’s presidency conclude without sharing some thoughts on his enormous contributions to the Block Association and to Woodhaven.
I joined the WRBA’s board of directors in 2009, a few months after Ed. I had the chance to work extremely closely with him throughout his time as president. We exchanged literally thousands of emails, spent innumerable hours on the phone with each other and attended more than 100 meetings together. I was able to observe how much Ed did for Woodhaven, how much he cared about the organization and how deserving of recognition he is.
On his watch, the WRBA has grown in several ways. It has many more members now than in the few years before he took over; town halls that once drew 20 people now routinely draw three or four or five times that number. Its accomplishments, concerns and priorities are now shared with the public through the media far more often than before. The WRBA is more responsive, more communicative, and a bigger presence in the neighborhood than in the years leading up to Ed’s presidency.
And the organization has accumulated more than its fair share of accomplishments. It defeated two unwise street-direction changes, offered testimony to government bodies on issues ranging from noise to redistricting, engaged in multiple graffiti clean-ups, fought to get a house sealed after it had been taken over by squatters, provided urgently needed relief to our neighbors in the Rockaways and others affected by Hurricane Sandy, and gave Woodhaven residents a voice on the future of the defunct Rockaway Branch rail line, among many other things too numerous to list here.
I am convinced that the WRBA and Woodhaven as a whole are much better-off today thanks to Ed’s leadership.
Ed brought with him a bias toward action. He wanted to get things done. He appreciated the value of online technology, and of communications. He created Project Woodhaven, perhaps the very first website dedicated to Woodhaven. He founded the WRBA’s Facebook page. He created the director of communications position, which I’ve held throughout my time on the board.
Ed also understood the importance of the past. That’s why he’s a fitting president of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society-and it explains why he’s such a fan of just reminiscing, as anyone who’s listened to his weekly online radio show could tell you.
Ed and I didn’t always see eye-toeye on things. We had our disagreements and debates. But he was always receptive to feedback and advice, solicited or not. And in my experience, he took seriously everyone who was genuinely motivated to improve Woodhaven or the WRBA.
Ed could be irreverent or casual, and I suspect that this style didn’t sit well with everyone. But if one of our town halls ever needed levity, you could be sure Ed would provide it. His approach also enabled him to be creative and make his point more amusingly and memorably than most people could.
He turned the WRBA into a powerhouse. In just four years, he led the organization to rack up one achievement after another. He serves as an example of what anybody could do for their community in relatively little time. And especially if you’re a Woodhaven resident, you can accomplish so much by joining the WRBA, making your passions known to its leadership, and getting started on turning them into a reality.
He might not be president anymore, but Ed Wendell remains an example of how much you can achieve if you truly care about your community. Everyone in Woodhaven owes him thanks, and I’m sure the way he would want us to show our gratitude is for us to get involved and work on bettering the community we share.
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Editor’s note: The next Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association meeting is this Saturday, Jan. 18, 1 p.m., at Emanuel United Church of Christ (91st Ave. & Woodhaven Blvd.) in the downstairs meeting room. Blenkinsopp is member of Community Board 9 and director of communications for the WRBA. For additional information on the WRBA, visit www.woodhavennyc.org.