As a native Long Islander and a longtime Queens resident, the name Floral Park has crossed my radar numerous times. Geographically, I always had a sense of where it was, but for the most part, it’s always been one of those nebulous-sounding burgs like Lattingtown, Bayport or East Williston that you think you’d be able to find on a map, but couldn’t really do on a wager. Given the fact that the village proper rests on less than 1.5 square miles, it’s no wonder that I’ve overlooked it in the past. But in the brief two weeks that I’ve been training to take over the editorship of the Floral Park Dispatch from my esteemed ex-colleague Melissa Argueta, I’ve come to realize that despite what Floral Park may lack in geographic size, it more than makes up for in the friendliness of its denizens and the old-fashioned charm radiated by its community leaders.
The first Dispatch story I filed was a feature on the Floral Park Lions Club. Our meeting took place during one of the club’s luncheons at Crabtree’s Restaurant. I was privileged enough to lunch with current chamber of commerce president Theresa Whalen, outgoing and incoming Lions heads Bill Greulich and John Mansfield, Lions historian Ray Carson and member/resident raconteur Raul Calvo. While I dined on the delicious fare, (I highly recommend the rigatoni with artichoke hearts), humorous anecdotes and historical Floral Park tidbits were enthusiastically batted about the table. And while every town has its own unique background, the pride with which each story was recounted was as undeniable as the Little Rascals mural that was looking down over our table. Did you know that legendary Hollywood sex bomb Jayne Mansfield, (who John assured me was no relation), was briefly a Floral Park resident? I didn’t. Nor did I know that controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe was a native son as was World Series champion pitcher and former Baltimore Oriole Pete Richert. On a more contemporary note, my research revealed that in one of current village Mayor Tom Tweedy’s former lives he provided the voice for Mark Venture, a major character on the anime program Star Blazers, a cartoon series I recall watching as a budding animation fan.
On a more serious civic note, I do know that I’ve heard great things about the Sewanhaka school district and of course one of the community’s most famous annual events, The Belmont Stakes. I’ve also been taken in by the beauty of Heritage Park, the small-town aura emanating from the Tulip and Covert Avenue downtown and the sinfully delicious cannoli cake I sampled from La Bella Bakery. (Although I’m told the Italian cookies Rosie’s Italian Bakery whips up are well worth seeking out.) And while I read from afar about the tragedy the Hance Family went through, it truly reaffirmed my faith in humanity when I witnessed how Floral Park rallied around those directly affected by this horrific event. All these factors excite me about the potential stories to be written about this proud and tiny village whose motto is “A Great Place to Live.” If I can do half a good a job as my predecessor, then I know that I will have done right by Floral Park.
— Dave Gil de Rubio