By Bill Parry
The corner of 103rd Street and Northern Boulevard in Corona was co-named to honor the late former Queens Borough President Helen Marshall Sunday during a ceremony organized by City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst) and state Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona).
Marshall, who died March 4, at the age of 87, was remembered for her 30 years of public service, becoming the first African-American Queens borough president in 2002 where she held that office for 12 years in addition to eight years in the state Assembly and 10 years in the City Council.
“I’ll always be grateful to Helen, whom I always considered a friend and mentor,” Ferreras-Copeland said. “She was the first person to introduce me to politics when I was just 14 years old. Now as I’m close to my retirement from politics, I’m very happy to be able to do this last act to honor Helen’s legacy. From now on, when someone walks by this street, they will remember Helen and the great work she did for our community.”
The corner is the original location of the Langston Hughes Library, co-founded by Marshall in 1969. She was a champion of libraries, schools, job training programs and economic development during her career.
“There is no one who deserves this more than our beloved Helen,” Aubry said. “She did so many great things for our community and our country that a street sign falls short in honoring her legacy. More than a friend, she was family to me and I will be forever proud and humbled to serve the 35th Assembly District as she once did.”
The ceremony drew many state and city officials as well as more than 100 community members to honor the former teacher who was the daughter of immigrants from Guyana who moved from the Bronx to Queens in 1949, settling first in Corona and then in East Elmhurst.
“In her more than three decades of public service, Helen Marshall broke barriers, embraced the strength of diversity, and guided our borough through unprecedented growth,” U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) said. “Helen always fought to ensure Queens got our fair share and she is leaving behind an incredible legacy of helping those in need. Dedicating this street in her honor is but a small token of how Helen deserves to be remembered and revered by our community.”
Borough President Melinda Katz called Marshall a larger-than-life figure in the civic life of Queens, the city and the State of New York.
“During her decades in public life, Mrs. Marshall fought tenaciously to improve our children’s schools, to address seemingly intractable quality-of-life issues and to secure a fair share of City resources for Queens,” Katz said. “As the first African American borough president of Queens and only the second woman to be elected to the position, Helen Marshall was a trailblazer who inspired many to pursue public service.”
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) called Marshall the best ambassador Queens ever had, while state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) who will move into Marshall’s former City Council seat representing the 21st District when he replaces Ferreras-Copeland next month, saluted her public service.
“Neighborhoods in Queens are enriched with a history of fearless fighters. East Elmhurst is no exception having been home to Helen Marshall,” Moya said. “The street renaming of a portion of Northern Boulevard to Helen Marshall Boulevard is a historic moment and a small token for the civic leadership and devotion Helen Marshall embodied. The legacy of the first African-American Queens borough president, Ms. Marshall will truly live on forever.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr