Ridgewood community gathers for Memorial Day service at Maltese Community Center – QNS.com

the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council (GRYC), a local nonprofit, held its first-ever Memorial Day event on Tuesday, May 24 at the newly renovated Serphin R. Maltese Community Center located at 776 Fairview Ave.

The GRYC purchased the building, which was once the Joseph B. Garity American Legion post, for $1.7 million with city and state funds in 2009. The space sat abandoned for decades. many years, but now stands as a veterans memorial and space for community programming.

“We want this to be a sacred space,” said GRYC President Robert Monahan. “We’re going to put up benches for people to sit and reflect on the sacrifices of those who came before us and those who will come after us.”

A monument commemorating fallen veterans is displayed outside the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.

The building is named after the former Maltese state senator, who served in the Korean War and was instrumental in obtaining the GRYC building for public use. Maltais appropriated $1 million to buy the building, and then MP Cathy Nolan and former MP Mike Miller also helped bring in money for the renovations.

The GRYC offers many after-school and adult education programs. Monahan said the new space gives GRYC an opportunity to teach children about the history of the building and the sacrifices of veterans.

“It’s community service at its best, and we teach kids about the history of our neighborhood and our nation,” Monahan said.

Ridgewood
Ammunition boxes converted to planters along the exterior memorial of the Serphin R. Maltese Community Center. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

Evelyn Cruz, representing Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, attended the event on Tuesday and said the space had a lot of value and meaning as Garity’s former veterans post.

“It reminds us when we walk around the neighborhood that we are a free country because men and women served to make this happen for us,” Cruz said. “It’s a beautiful space to reflect on what it means to serve the nation.”

Councilor Robert Holden, who was recently appointed Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, attended the event

“Bringing Memorial Day back in its entirety, with all the parades — we’ve been wronged over the past two years, but Memorial Day has always meant a lot to me and my family.”

Holden shared that her father served in the Philippines for four years during World War II and her mother wrote to soldiers overseas. For many years after the war, Holden’s mother also volunteered at Maspeth Veteran’s Hospital.

Ridgewood
Councilman Robert Holden shares his personal appreciation of Memorial Day and the meaning it has for his family. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

“It is so important to continue to tell the stories of all the men and women who have served our country and fought for our freedom. We owe them so much,” Holden said. “As President of Veterans Affairs, I will dedicate the rest of my life to helping veterans, just as my mother did.”

The event included the Ridgewood Kiwanis Children’s Pledge of Allegiance, a re-dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Monument and a tap dance performance.

Jill E. Washington