By Jon Cronin
The late Ira Cohen, Vietnam veteran, photographer and lovable Queens’ curmudgeon was honored on Thursday at the Resorts World Casino New York City in South Ozone Park for his service to our country and his contribution to Queens art and media.
Michelle Stoddard, a Resorts World Casino spokesperson, who worked with Cohen over the years, called him, “a real character of Queens, we all loved him,” she said.
The Queens Tribune and the casino, owned by Genting Group, honored Cohen in an intimate unveiling of a selection of his photos on the second floor of the building outside of the Baccarat Club.
She noted that she often misses him at press events and said he was a “true curmudgeon,” that was highlighted by “his wonderful smile and charm.”
Michael Nussbaum, publisher of the Queens Tribune and Press of Southeast Queens, said “Everyon knew Ira by his ponytail,” noting that one time he cut it and everyone thought he was rejoining the military. Of Cohen’s diverse career Nussbaum said Cohen joined the military and was promoted to Sergeant while serving two tours in the Vietnam conflict. After getting out of the military, he became a motorman with the MTA, was still part of the reserves and made time to sprint around Queens taking photos for various publications.
“I don’t know if Ira ever retired from anything,” said Nussbaum. “He had a love for people and doing things.” Nussbaum added that Cohen also belonged to the 107th Precinct’s auxiliary police.
“Ira always remembered everyone’s birthday,” and bought them a cake with money from his own pocket. “I’ll always remember the sparkle in his eye,” concluded Nussbaum.
State Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) knew Cohen well, “I was on the cover of more newspapers because of him,” noting that Cohen was not ashamed to get to the front of crowd and block the shot of other photographers. “He loved to gossip with people,” said Comrie, adding that though Cohen’s disheveled look meant “people thought he was homeless,” it did not stop him from ingratiating himself with strangers. The two shared a passion for photography and often talked about the medium.
The photos will be on display at the casino until Nov. 22.
Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at (718) 357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin