Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nabes, Forget Me-First by Nicholas Hirshon - NY Daily News

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Jim Van Westering - Queens Preservation Council, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and new Queens Borough Historian Jack Eichenbaum (left-right)

QUEENS' NEW borough historian implored leaders of local historical groups to join forces at a Borough Hall speech last week, calling for an end to neighborhood-first approaches among preservationists.
In his first major address since assuming the post in June, Jack Eichenbaum emphasized a united front to help Queens celebrate and protect its underappreciated past.
"Our neighborhoods can be our greatest strength, but they can also dilute that strength if we revert to parochialism," he warned.
Later, he reminded the crowd of about 60 preservationists and cultural group members, "You're fighting the same battles."
Perhaps as a sign of that unity, Eichenbaum hailed one of his early and vocal critics - author Jeffrey Kroessler, who had ripped Eichenbaum's "ignorance" of preservation efforts shortly after his appointment.
Eichenbaum admitted historic preservation is "something I really don't partake in very much." But he vowed to deflect future preservation issues to Kroessler, who had also vied for the borough historian post.
Referring to Kroessler and another historian candidate, Kevin Walsh of the website Forgotten-NY.com, Eichenbaum said, "They do things I can't do."
Kroessler, who was caught off-guard by the shoutout, later told the Daily News that preservationists already turn to him for help, partly due to his role with the Historic Districts Council.
"It doesn't change anything," Kroessler said. "Anyone can call me anytime."
Eichenbaum also outlined his plans to document the borough's recent demographic history. He said he hoped those attempts would awaken interest in local history among immigrants who do not currently feel a strong attachment to the borough.
"We've got to get that second generation interested in the history and preservation of Queens," he said.
He also mingled with sources from the Daily News' Queens Heritage Quest series, focusing on local sites that experts feel deserve historical markers or podcast-linked trails.
Earlier, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall indicated full support for Eichenbaum, saying that he "looks like an ordinary guy, but he's absolutely fabulous."
She also stressed the value of his position. "Without knowledge of our history," she said, "we're not much as a people."