Forest Hills honors veterans during Memorial Day event

By Sarina Trangle

Crowds gathered on Metropolitan Avenue Sunday to watch the Forest Hills Memorial Day parade, but some were disappointed the annual event did not draw the mayor.

Tom Long, commander of American Legion Post 1424, said Memorial Day ceremonies seem to compete with cookouts more each year, but that he was most let down by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s absence.

“This is the first parade since the ’90s that the mayor didn’t show up,” Long said. “Mr. Bloomberg was here every time. Mr. Giuliani was here.”

The only parade in Queens on de Blasio’s schedule for Monday was the Little Neck-Douglaston Parade, where he marched and greeted onlookers.

In Forest Hills, the parade drew bystanders as it wended its way from Ascan and Metropolitan avenues east toward Remsen Cemetery.

One woman peered out of a second-story apartment window and clapped as youth bands walked by. A Dunkin’ Donuts employee stepped out of the store to capture a bagpipe group performing “America the Beautiful” on his smartphone.

And then there were the traditional spectators, like Ed and Lani Taveras, who set up lawn chairs near 72nd Road and Metropolitan Avenue.

“It’s small and cozy,” said Lani Taveras, who has been watching the parade for close to a decade. “It makes it intimate.”

Community Board 6 Chairman Joseph Hennessy; Monsignor John McGuirl, from Our Lady of Mercy Church; and Terrance Holliday, commissioner of the mayor’s Office of Veteran’s Affairs, served as the grand marshals.

In their stead followed Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, a group holding a PS 101 centennial banner, Forest Hills Little League players, a Christ the King Regional High School band, vintage cars and representatives from the Queens and Richmond Hill historical societies.

At Remsen, McGuirl gave an invocation emphasizing the sacrifices of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 veterans buried in the cemetery.

Songs, a wreath ceremony, a flag raising and speeches followed.

Borough President Melinda Katz said she was proud to have close to a dozen parades on her schedule that weekend.

“We have more Memorial Day parades than any other city in New York,” Katz said, citing preliminary research. “We do more than have barbecues and go to the park.”

But Hennessy challenged Forest Hills to gather more spectators next year.

“I would like everybody to go home this evening and ask their neighbor: Were they at the parade? If not, ask them, ‘Why not?’” Hennessy said. “In the community, we have to support our veterans. They put their life on the line, not even knowing us.”

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@cnglocal.com.