The Village of Flower Hill celebrated its 75th anniversary with a festive gala at the North Hempstead Country Club in Port Washington. The well-attended event, which was one of several commemorations, featured as its keynote speaker Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and historian, Robert Caro, best known for his biography of Robert Moses, The Power Broker. In introducing Caro, Mayor Charles (Chuck) Weiss said, "The Power Broker has been acclaimed as one of the greatest pieces of nonfiction of the 20th century."
Caro began by saying, "How do you talk about Robert Moses? You talk about what he built." To illustrate Moses' contributions, Caro invited the audience to picture coming into New York via airplane. "You pass the Throgs Neck, the Whitestone and the Triboro bridges. The plane turns around over the Henry Hudson Bridge. If you're coming from the south you see the Verrazano, the Cross Bay Boulevard and Marine Parkway Bridges." Caro added that the grid pattern and slashes of concrete that are the parkways can all be attributed to Robert Moses with the single exception of the FDR drive. Caro pointed out that Moses built 15 expressways and parkways. In addition, he said, 16,000 acres of park were built by Robert Moses alone. The most famous, of course, is Jones Beach, but Moses' accomplishments also include Hecksher Park, Orchard Beach, Hempstead Lake State Park, and many others. Caro said, "Our lives are shaped by this one man."
Caro added, "One can also talk about Robert Moses in terms of political power." He pointed out that Moses, who built for 44 years, served under six governors and five mayors." Examples Caro gave: the decision to have the Triboro Bridge exit at 125th Street, the two great curves of the Northern State Parkway, the reason why there are no state parks in this part of Long Island, and, especially, how Moses maneuvered the creation of so many parks, including Jones Beach, here on Long Island, "the land of the robber barons." "They didn't want the rabble out here," Caro said. "They had private beaches and private police forces. They controlled the state legislature."
Another Moses heritage that we are living with on Long Island is the inadequacy of public transportation. Moses was not a fan of public transportation. "He loved his highways," said Caro. One reason was that the revenue from highway and bridge tolls went to the various authorities, which Moses pretty much controlled and which provided financing for new projects. Another reason, Caro said (in response to a question from the Port News) was to keep the "riffraff" out. In order to enjoy a day at Jones Beach or any of the other Long Island parks, a New York City family had to earn at least enough money to afford a car. Moses wanted to provide places that working families could escape to, but neither he nor most of the residents of Long Island were interested in serving the really poor.
During the lively question-and-answer period Caro summed up his overall assessment of Robert Moses. Caro said, "He created some great things, but I believe that his overall impact on the city was a disaster. When he came to New York in 1929, the city was great. When he left in 1968, the city was a disaster. Remember, the subtitle of my book is The Fall of New York."
The formal part of the evening began with the singing of the new Flower Hill Anthem, composed by Mayor Weiss and Jimmy Ryan, songwriter, husband of trustee Avery Ryan, Esq. Trustee Norman Glavas, chair of the 75th Anniversary Celebration, thanked all of his committee and others who helped make the event a success. He welcomed the guests, who included current and past village officials, other elected officials, and residents of Flower Hill and surrounding communities. He also acknowledged the sponsors: Flower Hill Auto Body, Landmark Diner, St. Francis Hospital, and a new Greek seafood restaurant to be opened on Northern Boulevard. He also pointed out that this was the second event celebrating the village's 75th anniversary; the first was a block party held last September in Flower Hill Park.
The village has also prepared a time capsule which was buried in a ceremony at village hall. The capsule includes videos of anniversary year events, a video and transcript of reminiscences of older residents, artwork created by young people at the block party, aerial maps, copies of local newspapers, and other artifacts.
Another commemoration of the 75th anniversary is the soon-to-be published The Village of Flower Hill Heritage Book. Included will be historical information, writings from former and current village officials, newspaper clippings, information about village clubs and organizations, photos of notable sites in Flower Hill, pictures of items to be included in the time capsule, and much more. The editor of the Heritage Book is former mayor John W. Walter.
The village of Flower Hill is an interesting one. It is one village, but part of it is located in Manhasset, part in Port Washington and part in Roslyn. For a capsule history of Flower Hill and other information, see the village's web site at www.villageflowerhill.com.