Douglaston overlook gets new benches, pavement
by Shane Miller
May 19, 2017 | 589 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Friends and family of Joseph Hellman joins Parks Department officials to cut the ribbon on renovations to the overlook that bears his name.
Friends and family of Joseph Hellman joins Parks Department officials to cut the ribbon on renovations to the overlook that bears his name.
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In the end, the Parks Department opted to have the benches face the natural area.
In the end, the Parks Department opted to have the benches face the natural area.
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Douglaston residents last week celebrated renovations to a nature overlook named for a neighbor of theirs who fought to save the open space from development.

The $43,000 project includes new pavement, plantings and benches inspired by a design for the 1964 World's Fair at the Joseph B. Hellman Overlook on Douglaston Parkway at 235th Street.

The benches face a natural area that include a small pond and 200-year-old Oak trees. Whether or not to have the benches face nature or Douglaston Parkway was a big decision for the Parks Department, according to Northeast Queens parks administrator Matt Symons.

“Joe would have wanted the benches to face the overlook,” assured his widow, Joan Hellman, affirming the department's final decision as the correct one.

Hellman said her late husband would have been pleased by the number of familiar faces who came out for last Thursday morning's rededication ceremony.

“He always said there were a lot of people involved and it wasn't just him,” she said. “He would be so thrilled today.

When a developer proposed an apartment building for the site in the late 90s, local residents pushed to have the height lowered and reduce the density. But Hellman had bigger plans, and never stopped advocating for the city to acquire the site for a future park.

“Even I told him it was impossible,” said longtime friend Bernie Haber, who was one of the first to propose naming the overlook after Hellman.

But Hellman persevered, and in 2005 the city acquired the land for a future park. In 2012, the overlook was named in his honor with the promise of future renovations.

Hellman died at the age of 70 in 2010. He was a member of Community Board 11, Douglaston Civic Association, Queens Historical Society, and a founding member of the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, in addition to his work advocating for the park.

“I recall not seeing him for long periods of time because he was so busy working on this,” recalled his wife.
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