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CB 7 OKs marshals’ plan

By Alex Robinson

Fire marshals, who are pushing to name a Fort Totten playground after one of their fallen comrades, came one step closer to achieving their goal Monday night.

Community Board 7 unanimously approved to support the fire marshals’ initiative to name a playground across the street from their base after Martin “Woody” McHale.

The marshal died from a heart attack while he was driving home from work Christmas Eve 2012.

“He was a role model. He was a mentor. He was a fireman’s fireman,” said Randall Wilson, commanding officer at the fire marshals’ citywide north base in Fort Totten, where McHale worked.

McHale served on the FDNY for 23 years before suffering a premature death at 50. He first joined the Fire Department in 1989 and was promoted to fire marshal 10 years later. Friends and family remembered him as a friendly giant who was so well-liked that a West 14th Street bar in Manhattan made McHale its namesake while he was still alive.

Wilson wrote a letter to CB 7 in November asking for its support to rename the playground, where McHale used to bring his young twin sons to play.

“They feel comfort going to the park, as that’s their memory of their dad. It would mean the world to me and I think it would mean the world to my children,” said Hope McHale, the fallen marshal’s widow. “When the fire marshals told me about it, I was so excited.”

Marilyn Bitterman, the board’s district manager, said she will now write a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio, appealing for support.

A city Parks Department spokesman said the department had not yet received a formal request from CB 7 to name the property, so he could not comment on it.

Parks will typically name things for an individual if he or she made a significant contribution to the site or to parks in general, the spokesman said.

Parks are renamed at the discretion of the Parks commissioner or through local law.

The board also voted on another Parks Committee proposal at its meeting Monday night to approve a $2.4 million restoration of Macneil Park, which sits northwest of Poppenhusen Avenue.

The plan will repair portions of the College Point park’s esplanade and build a fishing area. The erosion of the park’s seawall and waterfront paths occurred over many years of use, Parks officials told community board members.

The department will also replace a chain link fence along the waterfront with a painted railing, build granite steps down to the water and restore the park’s tree canopy.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation still needs to approve the plan, but Parks officials said they anticipate that construction on the park will start by summer 2015 and last a year.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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