Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Historic Choice - 3 Vying for Job of Boro Expert by Nicholas Hirshon - NY Daily News

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THE SEARCH for Queens' next borough historian centers on three seasoned experts with markedly different backgrounds - and no clear front-runner as a June selection deadline approaches, sources said.

A college librarian, an "urban explorer," and a curiosity-hunting Webmaster occupy the short list to become the borough's next advocate for historic preservation and research, insiders said.

The sources asked to remain anonymous because the office of Borough President Helen Marshall, which formed a committee to review candidates, has refused to reveal the applicants' names.

Marshall is expected to announce her pick in June.

Perhaps the most intriguing option is author Kevin Walsh, who documents unusual New York curios - such as faded ads on buildings - at Forgotten-NY.com.

Walsh, 52, who also runs guided tours for the Newtown Historical Society, said he feels qualified because running the site has led him "down many roads of hitherto unremarked-on Queens locales."

If the committee seeks a more academic option, however, a pair of contenders with doctorates may rise above Walsh, who holds a bachelor's degree in sociology.

Jack Eichenbaum, a retired city assessor who grew up in Bayside and has lived in Flushing for decades, explained his unusual "urban explorer" tag.

"That's what geographers do," said Eichenbaum, 67, who has a doctorate in urban geography. "We explore, we try to find things that nobody has unearthed for a while."

A third top competitor, Jeffrey Kroessler, who has a doctorate in history, is an author and archivist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He did not return messages seeking comment.

Three other applicants - described as younger and lesser-known in Queens history circles - submitted résumés but are not likely finalists, sources said.

Interestingly, several prominent experts did not apply.

Preservationists long predicted that Jim Driscoll, president of the Queens Historical Society, might assume the post - but he is recovering from an illness suffered last year.

Another veteran advocate, Jeff Gottlieb of the Central Queens Historical Association, said he did not apply due to a possible conflict of interest with his gig as a state senator's aide.

Members of the selection committee described the ideal candidate as a "people person" with experience, passion and time to devote to the unsalaried position.

"We're not going to get somebody who has everything," admitted committee member Richard Lieberman, the director of the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives.