BY JON CRONIN
Neir’s Tavern patrons, civic leaders and local pols turned out en masse on Saturday to show support for the land marking of the historic bar, which turns out is not only about the history, but the community and the memories they’ve made.
Built in 1829 at the foot of the Union Course Racetrack, it is now the only evidence of the track left in Woodhaven.
Loy Gordon, the owner, said, “What really matters is the community. They have history and it is a long history.” He recalled a story about a woman whose husband was always angry about having to spend time at Neir’s during the 1950s. He told her that he kept getting into arguments with patrons while he was there over history, science or anything. To keep the peace in her home, she bought a set of encyclopedias and donated them to Neir’s. They still sit there today in a bookcase between the bar and the staircase.
Gordon remembered a man who thanked him for keeping the bar open. He asked the young man why he was so appreciative and the man told him that this was his father’s favorite bar, but that he had recently passed away. The man added that he and his father were never close, but that when the man came to Neir’s and sat in his father’s favorite seat, the people that had once surrounded his father now surrounded him and could tell him about the great times they had with his father.
Tracy Gallagher, a lifelong resident of Woodhaven, said she had been coming to Neir’s a lot when she was younger, but it wasn’t until Gordon took it over in 2009 and breathed new life into it that she came back. Now she brings her 11-year-old son every week for dinner.
Martin Colberg, president of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association said he comes not only because they make a great Jack and Ginger, but because Gordon “puts his heart and soul into this establishment.”
“One way or another we’re gonna get it [landmarked],” he added.
“Neir’s is already a landmark in the eyes of countless people, and is really like no other place in the City. It has lasted through generations upon generations of patrons, and is a staple in Woodhaven,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) said. “It is the feeling of familiarity, family and community that makes Neir’s more than just a bar – it is home, it is part of our lives. The LPC should more often look towards our borough of rich, historic treasures.”
So far over 250 community members have signed a petition to landmark Neir’s. Postcards will be sent out by the community and in three months, Gordon plans to start a committee that will “pressure the Landmark Preservation Council to look at Queens’ great, historic treasures closely before we lose them all.”
“The people of New York City should play an equal part in choosing what gets preserved and landmarked. At Saturday’s rally, we came together to say, ‘We exist, and we matter!’” Gordon said. “Neir’s Tavern matters, Woodhaven matters, the borough of Queens matters. We are all a part of the fabric of New York City history.”
Saturday’s rally was held in conjunction with the Historic Districts Council, and attended by local politicians state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven).
Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at (718) 357-7400 x125, email@example.com or @JonathanSCronin