Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Meet & Greet, Ferret Out Facts, Cheerlead for Love of It by Nicholas Hirshon - NY Daily News

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RESCUE HISTORIC buildings from demolition. Uncover long-lost facts. Captivate tourists through lectures and tours.

Just don't expect a paycheck.

The role of borough historian doesn't come with a salary - but it's a bully pulpit from which many have documented and saved underappreciated sites.

"Queens isn't going to slide into Long Island Sound if there's no borough historian, but it's a nice resource," said Michael Miscione, Manhattan's official historian.

Miscione, who serves on the committee to pick Queens' new representative, defined the job as a mix of booster and activist.

"It's a labor of love," added Brooklyn borough historian Ron Schweiger, who often fields media queries concerning the Brooklyn Bridge and the Dodgers.

Queens' last historian, Stanley Cogan, recently stepped down due to health reasons after a decade-long run in which he often criticized over-development and testified at landmarking hearings.

He also entertained reporters with his memorable refrain that "Queens is Landmarks' stepchild and a developer's paradise."

But members of the selection committee for the next borough historian stressed the ability not only to accommodate the press, but also stick with the gig.

"We want someone who's going to be there for the long haul," said committee member Marisa Berman, executive director of the Queens Historical Society.

Also on the committee is Judith Todman of the Queens Library, who said she hoped the new borough historian would produce pamphlets about neighborhoods' legacies.

"We have so much history in this borough - and a lot of people don't know the fine points of it," Todman said.