Author Archives: KWISE

Flight 587 Memorial, Belle Harbor, NY

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The Flight 587 memorial is located on Beach 116th Street in Belle Harbor, New York.  It was designed by Dominican artist Freddy Rodriguez.  This memorial is dedicated to the memory of those who perished in the crash of American Airlines flight 587.  The flight took off from JFK airport bound for the Dominican Republic when it suddenly crashed into the Rockaway Peninsula on November 12, 2001.  In total, 260 passengers and crew and 5 persons on the ground died.

This is a beautiful memorial for a great tragedy.  The Flight 587 Memorial was designed by Dominican artist, Freddy Rodriguez.  It was dedicated on November 12, 2006.  The names of those who perished in the crash are inscribed on the bricks.  There is an inscription over the door opening that reads, “Despues, yo quiero no mas que paz.”  The English translation is, “Afterwards, I want only peace.”

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9/11 Tribute Park, Belle Harbor, NY

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The 9/11 Tribute Park is located on the corner of Beach 116th Street and Beach Channel Drive in Belle Harbor, Far Rockaway Peninsula, Queens.  The park and monuments is dedicated to the 70 residents of Rockaway Park, as well as the 343 firefighters who died on September 11, 2001.

The gazebo was designed by artist Patrick Clark.  The roof of the gazebo is covered with stained glass which has the names inscribed names of 70 Rockaway Park residents that were killed on that day. The 343 memorial sculpture was designed by Russian sculptor Isabella Slobodov, and completed by Patrick Clark.

It was a sunny, clear day in spring when I visited the 9/11 Tribute Park.  There is a great view of lower Manhattan.  Sitting on one of the benches in the park, it is a very relaxing and calm place to be.  I thought of the anguish residents of Belle Harbor must have experienced to stand on this very site and witness the horrific tragedy that unfolded on September 11, 2001.  As I reflect about this memorial, I come away feeling how closely net this community was before this tragedy and how much stronger it became afterwards.


Tony “Mr. Padre” Gwynn


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Anthony “Tony” Keith Gwynn was born on May 9, 1960 in Long Beach, California.  He was recruited to play basketball at San Diego State University in 1977.  Tony eventually played both basketball and baseball at SDSU.  In 1981 he was drafted by both the San Diego Padres and San Diego Clippers.  He stuck with baseball and spent his entire career with the Padres, until his retirement in 2001.  He remained closely connected to SDSU becoming the head baseball coach.  Tony Gwynn, along with his wife, was very involved within the community around San Diego.  They established a foundation providing programs and services for underserved children in San Diego.

Tony Gwynn battled salivary gland cancer for many years.  He attributed his illness to the use of chewing tobacco throughout his baseball career.

He is survived by his wife, Alicia, son Anthony Jr., daughter, Anisha, mother, Vendella, and his siblings Charles and Chris.

Growing up in San Diego, Tony Gwynn was always a visible and active member in the community.  For me, more so than him being a talented athlete, I respected how he held himself while off the field.  When I went home to San Diego for a visit this past February, I noticed just how much of an impact Tony Gwynn had on the city. I spend some time walking through my alma mater San Diego State University and admired the baseball field and stadium named in his honor.

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Who Was George E. Wibecan?

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Just who was George E. Wibecan?  It’s a question I ask myself each time I see his portrait in the school’s auditorium.  I thought whoever he was; his contributions to the community must have been significant for a school to be named in his honor.  As my research on him began, I quickly realized that tracing Mr. Wibecan’s mark on Brooklyn history was not as simple as I thought.

Most of the biographical information about Mr. Wibecan was written in his obituary, published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on Friday, July 19, 1912.  Mr. Wibecan, being of Danish and West Indian decent, was born in St. Croix.  At the age of thirty-two, he joined in holy matrimony to a woman sixteen years his junior.  He and his wife immigrated to the United States in 1863.  He and his wife had one child, George E. Wibecan Jr.

George E. Wibecan Sr. was actively in the fight against injustices and discrimination against Black people.  Mr. Wibecan was president of the H.H. Garnet Republican Club, served chairman of the Negro division of the Republican State Committee.  He was probably led into political activism due to incidents that he personally experienced.  According to his obituary, Mr. Wibecan was chased by a mob during the Draft riots in New York in 1864.  He was able to escape by hiding in a boat within the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  In addition to his work within the New York political scene, he had his own business in fruit trading, and served as a postal superintendent for the United States Postal Service.

George E. Wibecan died on July 18, 1912 in his home in Cypress Hills, NY.  He was a member of the Holy Name Society, in addition to other organization of the Catholic Church.  Not surprising,

My last thought about Mr. George E. Wibecan Sr. is that there is so much more to his story of activism and political influence still to be discovered.  From what I have read, George Wibecan was well connected and respected in the community and state because of his dedication to the cause of achieving equality for those being denied their lawful rights.





Maria Hernandez


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Maria Hernanez Park is located in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. Maria Hernandez was a resident of Bushwick and outspoken neighborhood leader in the fight against drugs dealers on her street.  Maria was born and raised in Brooklyn.  She attended New York University and earned a degree in accounting. She worked as a bookkeeper for a medical management company in New Jersey.

Along with her husband, Maria Hernandez fought to rid their street of the drug dealers that were destroying it.  They approached the drug dealers directly and worked with the police for a solution.  Maria and her husband worked vigilantly to expose the problem of drugs in their neighborhood by organizing block parties, social, cultural, and athletic activities with the goal of educating and uniting her neighbors in the struggle to rid the streets of drug dealers.

Maria Hernandez, a wife, mother of three children, and community activist, was gunned down in her own home on August 8, 1989. Five bullets hit Mrs. Hernandez as shots were fired from outside through the window of her home.  William Figueroa, a 26-year old heroin dealer was arrested, and charged with her death.  Police believed that two other men were involved with the shooting.

People like Maria Hernandez, and her husband, are the unsung heroes of communities all over the country.  They typically don’t get the media attention or wide-range support as some public figures do.  However, they continue to fight for what causes they passionately believe in.  It’s unfortunate that Maria Hernandez’s life was taken before her fellow community members and law enforcement made the necessary changes to improve the neighborhood.  However, I don’t believe she died in vain.  The neighborhood is cleaner, and safer than it was in 1989, and I think Maria Hernandez would be pleased to see the families playing in the park dedicated in her memory.