The Greater Ridgewood Youth Council (GRYC), a local nonprofit, held its first-ever Memorial Day event Tuesday, May 24, at the newly renovated Serphin R. Maltese Community Center on 776 Fairview Ave.
GRYC purchased the building, which was once the American Legion Joseph B. Garity post, for $1.7 million with city and state funds in 2009. The space was abandoned for many years but now stands as a veterans memorial and a space for community programming.
“We want this to be a sacred space,” said GRYC President Robert Monahan. “We’re going to put benches for folks to be able to sit and reflect on the sacrifices of those before and those coming after us.”
The building was named after former state Senator Maltese, who served in the Korean War and was instrumental in obtaining the GRYC building for public use. Maltese appropriated $1 million to purchase the building, then Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and former Assemblyman Mike Miller also helped bring money for renovations.
GRYC offers many after school and adult education programs. Monahan said that the new space gives GRYC the opportunity to teach kids about the history of the building and veteran sacrifices.
“It’s community service at its best and we’re teaching kids about the history of our neighborhood and nation,” Monahan said.
Evelyn Cruz, representing Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, attended the event Tuesday and said that this space has a lot of value and meaning as the former Garity veterans post.
“It reminds us when we walk down the neighborhood that we are a free country because men and women served to make it happen for us,” Cruz said. “It’s a beautiful space for reflection for what it means to serve the nation.”
Councilman Robert Holden, who was recently appointed chair of the Veteran’s Committee, attended the event
“Bringing back Memorial Day in full, with all the parades — we were shortchanged in the last couple of years but Memorial Day has always meant a lot to me and my family.”
Holden shared that his father served in the Philippines for four years during World War II and his mother wrote to soldiers overseas. For many years after the war, Holden’s mother also volunteered at the Manhattan Veteran’s Hospital.
“It’s so important to keep telling the stories of all the men and women who served our country and fought for our freedom. We owe them so much,” Holden said. “As veteran’s chair, I’m going to dedicate the rest of my life to helping the veterans just like my mom did.”
The event featured the Pledge of Allegiance from kids in the Ridgewood Kiwanis, a rededication of the monument for Vietnam veterans and a performance of taps.