Category: Archive

Queens roils as City Council ponders Carvill honor

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Members of the community board, however, expressed frustration and anger over the way their decisions had been interpreted and received.
The idea to rename the street was proposed by the Woodside-based Emerald Isle Immigration Center.
Carvill, who was killed June 4 in Baghdad while serving with the New Jersey Army National Guard, devoted many hours of his time to the center on a voluntary basis.
The center’s initial request that a local street be renamed after Carvill was turned aside by community board committee. That refusal was later backed by the full board, a decision that prompted a sharp rebuke from Emerald Isle chairman Brian O’Dwyer.
In a letter to Council member Gioia seeking support for the renaming plan, O’Dwyer expressed “outrage” over the initial refusal by the board’s Land Use Committee. O’Dwyer described the decision as “mean spirited” and “short-sighted.”
The Emerald Isle’s case for a street to be assigned a dual name — the existing designation with Carvill’s name added — was first presented to the board’s Land Use Committee by the center’s executive director, Siobhan Dennehy, at a meeting last month.
The committee supported the idea of a memorial but rejected the proposal to add Carvill’s name to an existing street name. It argued in part that Carvill, who lived in Carlstadt, N.J., had not been a Queens resident and that there had been, and would continue to be, other victims of the war in Iraq from the borough.
In a rebuttal, Emerald Isle said that Carvill’s contribution to the Woodside area during the course of a decade’s work at Emerald Isle was more crucial than where he had lived.
The committee decision, and the letter from O’Dwyer to Eric Gioia, resulted in Gioia urging the full Woodside Community Board 2 to back the street renaming proposal.
But despite a strongly worded written plea from Gioia, the full board backed the earlier committee decision by a razor thin margin. This rejection, in turn, prompted Gioia to draw up a bill and announce it Monday at a press conference held at the Emerald Isle offices in Woodside. The bill received immediate backing from top political leaders in Queens, including Rep. Joe Crowley.
A press release accompanying the bill’s announcement promised to “reverse” the community board’s “snub.” However, board chairman Joe Conley was having none of it.
“It’s outrageous,” Conley said in reference to the “snub” accusation. The community board “in no way” dismissed Frank Carvill’s contribution to Woodside and Sunnyside, his service in the military, or his ultimate sacrifice in Iraq, Conley said, adding, “the community board didn’t say no to honoring Frank Carvill.”
Conley stressed that an alternative idea being considered by the board was a memorial in the public space at the intersection of Roosevelt and Woodside Avenues.
Conley said that the idea of honoring people who contributed to the community was a “no-brainer.”
But he cited what he said was a lack of dialogue over the Carvill proposal, and a lack of respect shown the community board.
“Nobody spoke before the [full] board about this,” Conley said. “Some people are grandstanding and becoming demagogues.”
Joe Gillespie, a board member, said that the criticism in O’Dwyer’s letter to council member Gioia had been out of order.
“I’m just speaking for myself, but if someone from the Emerald Isle had spoken to the full board meeting, this proposal would probably have been passed,” Gillespie, a Donegal native, said.
He added that if properly approached and left to make its own decision, the community board would probably have reversed its decision in the new year.
“The vast majority of people on the community board don’t have any axe to grind,” Gillespie said.
The street renaming idea was rejected 12-11 by the board with four abstentions.
The board, which can have as many as 50 members, currently has 48 on its rolls, according to chairman Conley.
O’Dwyer, meanwhile, rejected any suggestion that the board has been wronged. He said he was “mystified” as to why there was a vote against the renaming proposal in the first place.
“Frank Carvill is a genuine American hero,” O’Dwyer said. “The community board has been caught in a firestorm of its own making and now they are trying to get out of it.
“I was outraged because I knew Frank. I never thought this proposal would be given a second thought,” O’Dwyer said.
He believed that the initial presentation to the Land Use Committee by Siobhan Dennehy should have been enough to win approval of the committee and full board.
“The city council and every single elected politician in Queens supports this proposal enthusiastically,” O’Dwyer said in reference to the Gioia bill.
This enthusiasm, however, is less evident in the community board, an appointed body that has no legislative power and mainly acts in an advisory role.
Board chairman Conley said it was “sad” the way the matter had been handled and aired in the press.
“This doesn’t bring the community together. It’s very divisive,” he said. “What should have been something positive had been turned into something negative.”
Meanwhile, Eli Richlin, Eric Gioia’s chief-of staff, said that the Carvill bill could take several months before it reached the full city council for a vote.
Council member Gioia was “committed” to the renaming of a street intersection after Frank Carvill and was confident that the bill would pass, Richlin said.

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