CREST HAVEN – There is a special section of Stone Harbor that has always been rather peaceful. However, this quiet cul-de-sac at the end of Second Avenue and 123rd Street could be destined for a surge of activity. It is here where borough officials would like to build Point of Peace Memorial Park in tribute to those who were killed Sept. 11, 2001.
Several townspeople disagree with this project. They do not take umbrage with the notion of a Sept. 11 memorial in their town. They only wish to continue to explore other possible sites in Stone Harbor where such a memorial could exist. The proposed site at Second Avenue and 123rd Street, as they see it, would only bring unwanted traffic and extra crowds to their neighborhood.
“I don’t think there’s anyone more patriotic than I am,” said Dan Brown, a resident who served in Vietnam and earned a Distinguished Flying Cross. “The issue here is not that we don’t feel for the families who were affected on Sept. 11. A monument is probably the right thing to do. I just think there are more tasteful ways you can do it for under $700,000.”
The figure Brown referred to is an approximation that was included in a proposal by the special committee designated by the Stone Harbor Borough Council. It includes monies for the park, the monument and $240,000 for restrooms. “That’s a quarter of a million for bathrooms,” Brown said. “The money they are looking to spend is far out there. Avalon got their Sept. 11 monument for close to $70,000, which is about 10 percent of what these people want to do here.”
“Once you put a bulldozer to what God gave us, it’s gone forever,” Brown said. “We suggested a number of other areas—the firehouse, American Legion, and the library, maybe that would be an appropriate site.”
John Ready, a resident who disagrees with the proposed location, shed some light on how it all began. “Over time the committee decided among themselves that there were eight sites that were possible. The proposed location is, right now, a very peaceful, wide-open, uninterrupted area. And they want to erect this memorial with bathrooms, benches, sewer pipes, the whole deal, plus a globe, LED lights, etc.”
Since the original presentation of the proposal, there have been other developments. At a county Open Space Review Board meeting on Oct. 8, Peter Lomax announced that the Borough of Stone Harbor was “willing to table their request for funds until December. The borough is in the process of working through a number of issues that have been raised. I have received a number of correspondence about the proposal, so not withstanding the borough’s review, I will be opening today’s meeting for comments about the Point of Peace Memorial Park.”
Ready, speaking for himself, spoke cautiously about the deferment. “I know the borough’s application has been deferred, but deferred only means postponed.” Armed with survey results, Ready said, “In a Property Owner’s Association poll, people were asked, ‘Do you support creating a Sept. 11 memorial in Stone Harbor, 61 percent said ‘yes.’ They were then asked, ‘Do you support the proposed design and location?’ 80 percent said ‘no.’ This is a mandate by the taxpayers and residents of Stone Harbor saying ‘Don’t do this.’ Stone Harbor is currently on the wrong track.”
Julian Miraglia, a resident, echoed Ready’s statements. “As an observer, it seems the council made an error,” he said. “They put together a private committee. Once it went public, there was an overwhelming opposition to the proposal.”
Borough Councilmember Albert Carusi was at the Open Space meeting, “as an observer.” He stood to speak on his own behalf. “I’m in agreement with the opposition for the reasons they are stating. In fairness to the person who started all of this, she meant well and formed a committee which consists of the mayor, fire chief, police chief, and two people who lost loved ones on Sept. 11. So I think they had the right representation. When I first saw the proposal, I spoke out against it for the location and cost. It became clear afterwards that there is direct opposition to the project from the public. I think its right that it is being postponed for two months and I think the council is moving toward discussing a new location but I can’t speak to that point directly.”
“In my experience,” said Ready, “it’s never over until it’s over.”
Mayor Suzanne Walters informed the Property Owners Association Sept. 14 that if county open space funding was unavailable the project would be downsized. She said the borough did not intend to fund the park through its general budget, nor would it be built with bond funds or from the general property tax.
“If it’s a scaled-down project, it’s a scaled-down project,” Walters told members.
Walters said that in over 28 years the borough had sent in excess of $5 million to the Open Space fund and received “zero” in return. For that reason the borough was seeking full funding from the county fund, she said.