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Late Ben Fried honored on sign at 43rd and Bell

By Kelsey Durham

Dozens gathered in Bayside Monday to honor one of the community’s most beloved members by permanently embedding his name in the neighborhood for all to remember.

A street sign at the corner of Bell Boulevard and 43rd Avenue now bears the name of Benjamin Fried, a late community advocate who began making his mark in Bayside more than 80 years ago at a location just across the street from the intersection now named in honor of him.

Fried, who died in March 2013 at 98, opened Benn’s Hardware, at 42-29 Bell Blvd., in 1933, beginning his 67-year relationship with the neighborhood he called home.

“My father’s opportunities and experiences were to help the community of Bayside,” said Jack Fried, Ben’s son. “He was always involved in the community.”

Standing on the corner of the street, Jack Fried spoke of his father the way many others remember him: the “mayor of Bayside” whose shop was often called the “Little City Hall.”

He described some of his father’s proudest achievements, including organizing a rally for thousands of people who protested the city’s decision to close the FDNY’s Engine Co. 306 in Bayside because of budget issues.

Within a few days, the fire station was the first in the city to be reopened, Jack Fried said. Because of the help he gave the Fire department, Ben Fried was named an honorary chief, and the ceremony to rename the street in his honor included a posting of the colors from the FDNY.

He also remembered his father’s passion for helping children, shown in his determination to organize an annual holiday parade where children marched down Bell Boulevard and received gifts.

At Monday’s street renaming, City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), who spearheaded the initiative to rename the intersection in Ben Fried’s honor, surprised his son by announcing he would be bringing back that annual holiday parade starting this year.

Several other elected officials and community advocates — including state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), former Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece and CB 11 District Manager Susan Seinfeld — also turned out to speak in remembrance of Ben Fried, and Borough President Melinda Katz called the large crowd a great tribute to him that showed how many people loved and respected the Bell Boulevard fixture.

“Ben was a leader of his time,” Katz said. “When merchants needed a leader, when we needed someone to stand up to DSNY, Ben took the lead. This street renaming is a very small part of how we can say thank you and because of this sign, generations to come will ask who Ben Fried was and we’ll be able to tell them he was a great leader to be respected.”

After the sign bearing the name Benjamin Fried Boulevard was unveiled, the late community advocate received a round of applause from those in attendance as they paid tribute to the many positive changes he brought to their community over the years.

“I hope that this sign will entice others to fight to make Bayside even better than he did,” Jack Fried said.

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at kdurh‌am@cn‌gloca‌l.com.

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