Artwork of military veterans goes on display in Astoria

By Bill Parry

A family in the property management business, with several apartment buildings in Queens, has found a way to showcase the artwork of military veterans and decorate the lobbies of their apartment buildings at the same time.

James Eisenberg, founder of an art program called Reticle, installed the latest work in an Astoria apartment building, at 25-74 33rd St., last week.

“My father, brother and I were all captains in the Army with a deep interest in veterans issues,” he said. “This is the sixth building that we’ve done this in and we’ll do four more installations in early March.”

The Eisenbergs have plenty of more space for the veterans’ art. Their company, Urban American Management, with an office in East Elmhurst,owns 90 apartment buildings citywide.

The exhibitions are not open to the public, but they post photos on social media and Eisenberg may host an open house in the future.

Reticle is the grid in an optical instrument used, for example, in the sight on a sniper rifle, Eisenberg explained.

“I named the art program as a play on words, seeing through the eyes of a veteran,” he said.

Eisenberg started the program after meeting a military veteran while they were volunteering to clean up neighborhoods affected by Hurricane Sandy, primarily in the Rockaways.

“He was a talented artist and it gave me the idea to show a side of soldiers not often seen,” he said. “I thought we could give them a platform to show their work. It benefits the artist and the building’s residents and may even help the veteran start a business of their own.”

The artwork installed is the photography of Sergeant Peter Meijer of the U.S. Army, who is currently in Afghanistan training non-government organizations staff on personal security and protection.

He is also a member of Team Rubicon, a nonprofit disaster relief organization that brings together military veterans to respond to disasters like Sandy. Eisenberg was working with Team Rubicon when he was inspired to start Reticle.

Originally from Grand Rapids, Mich., Meijer thinks it is fitting that his art hangs in an Astoria apartment building.

“There’s a certain symmetry because a lot of the photos I took were in Queens, where my old reserve unit was stationed at Fort Totten,” he said via e-mail from Afghanistan. “I used to rise at 3 a.m. on Saturday morning and put on my uniform, I’d take the 7 train to Flushing and transfer for a bus to Fort Totten in time for formation at 6:30 a.m.”

The sergeant added that he’s thrilled that his work has found a home in Astoria.

“In a way I prefer that it’s for the residents, I like the idea of my work becoming a part of someone’s scene,” Meijer said. “Many of my favorite things didn’t catch my eye at first, not until a novel glance or a surprising moment made me aware of what had previously gone unnoticed. I hope at least a resident or two will feel something similar.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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