May 12, 2014 By Christian Murray
The $2.2 million upgrade to Thomas P. Noonan Playground began late last month but elected officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Friday to celebrate the revamp–which will feature a new children’s play area as well as a commemorative plaque in honor of those Sunnyside residents who died while serving in Vietnam.
While dozens of students from PS 199 turned out in good spirit, many of Sunnyside’s aging veterans—accompanied by their family and friends—came out to pay homage to those who died in Vietnam even though the memorial/plaque is a year from completion.
The Parks Department has started work on the year-long project, which will result in the construction of a new rainbow sprinkler system—as well as the addition of a new play area, fencing and shrubbery. The basketball and handball courts will be resurfaced, which will only take two months to complete, so work will begin on that section of the park at the end of summer.
The new park, however, will feature a flagpole, with a granite memorial dedicated to Lance Corporal Thomas P. Noonan as well as a plaque to honor four other servicemen who died from this neighborhood while serving the nation in Vietnam.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Mike Smith, a Vietnam vet who is the head of VFW 2813, which is located on 43rd Street in Sunnyside. “It is a great honor [to Noonan] who was known throughout the community.”
Mark Wilensky, a life-long resident, said two of the men who will be honored were childhood friends of his that he played with at the very same park where the plaque will be. “We played basketball together at St. Raphaels and hung out at PS 199 when we were kids.”
Wilensky said he was good friends with Thomas John Reilly, who lived on 43rd Street (by White Castle), before being shot down in a helicopter just two weeks into his tour, and Donald Breuer, who went missing in action.
Breuer, who grew up on the corner of 40th Street and 50th Avenue, had two boys when he died. He had a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old.
Breuer’s brother and sister attended the groundbreaking. His sister, Noreen, said that Breuer had returned back to New York shortly after his second son was born and was looking forward to returning to family life when his tour was done. He had less than 100 days to go before he went missing.
Wilensky said he was disappointed that it took 40 years for these men to be honored—although he thanked Community Board 2 chairman Joe Conley, a veteran himself, for helping make sure that all the residents from this neighborhood who died serving in Vietnam were honored.
“We will be honoring four local residents who grew up in Sunnyside and Woodside and through this rededication their memories will live on,” Conley said.
Conley said that he had been researching who came from Sunnyside and died in Vietnam since 2011, when he discovered that there wasn’t a memorial honoring the fallen from this neighborhood. He said that he had been pushing for a memorial or plaque since then and when he heard that Noonan Playground was being upgraded he saw it was a perfect opportunity to talk to Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and the Parks Department about getting it done.
At the groundbreaking, Conley spoke about Edward Corcoran, who lived on 44th Street, before dying in Vietnam.
Conley said Corcoran worked at Lindy’s Men Shop, a clothing store located on Greenpoint Avenue at the time, before he was drafted in October 1970. He was killed six months later.
Corcoran, Conley said, had planned to open a clothing store in the area when he returned—but his dreams were dashed.
James Joseph Owens is the fourth Sunnyside resident who died in Vietnam who will be honored on the plaque. More names might be added.
Meanwhile, the story of Lance Corporal Thomas Noonan (1943-1969) will be told on a granite slab at the foot of the flagpole. Noonan, who served as a mortar man and later as a rifleman in the Third Marine Division, was killed in action while attempting to rescue wounded members of his company and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Van Bramer said: “Noonan Playground is an important community hub for our seniors, families and local children.”
“The renovations that begin today will expand the popular playground…and forever commemorate the sacrifices our local veterans made for this great nation.”
@Crane..why don’t you go back to occupying Wall Street!!!!
“War is a racket. It always has been.”
USMC Major General Smedley D. Butler, two time Medal of Honor recipient
My god you guys! Look at yourselves. You could turn everything negative. It could be an article about kittens being saved from a burning building and you will twist it in to something awful and start fighting like little kids on the playground!
Airl, do yourself and us a favor and stop calling people idiots.
Do you think you could call me idiot looking at my face? Who do you think you are?
Maybe one of you who support this type of nonsense can also support whn your kids see this and go “I want to go to war, fight someone else’s war one day, kill people and eventually be killed so my name can be given to some small stupid park somewhere that nobody cares about where homeless roam and drunk piss on my plaque” Sure I am proud of our veterans, but it’s sad to see they died for people like Ari or whatever his name is, coward yellow chickens who can’t say anything unless it is behind a monitor typing and probably living off welfare collecting disability off some fake accident they had.. Ari, you can go to hell. You can’t even handle someone else’s civil comment and start foaming in the mouth and bark at them too.
I do not support naming a Children’s playgroud after a veteran. Ari Fink is an attention whore.
And this site stinks.
@kabooky how does naming a park after a veteran bring violence to it???are u really serious?if anything it will teach them how senseless war is. We have lost too many veterans and it s too sad. Educate our kids and don’t keep them in glasshouses. Make them volunteer and get them away from their iPhones and laptops and let them find out what the real world is about. Support out veterans.
@kabooky…are you really that twisted?..sophomoric insults over a discussion about a war hero?..Do yourself a favor and get some fresh air..maybe a walk in the park might help
It is nice that Ari and his 3d grade class at IS 225 are using the Sunnyside Post as a class writing project. But young Ari you need to repeat 2d grade reading. I am totally for the playground being named after this hero and nothing that I said previously contradicts that.
The best way to honor these men is to stop sending future generations of decent, brave men and women to lose their lives, limbs and mental health in wars fought to enrich the corporate interests and rob other countries of their resources.
These men died in the service of our country and should be commemorated by our community. Thanks to all who made the memorial possible.
Crane is one of them time out people huh? Raising the future wimps of tomorrow. The kind of person to freak out when a kid draws a stick figure with a gun, Omg violence in a child! How will society function?!?!?! pew pew pew ??? ahhhhhhhhhh
@kabooky…not just a veteran you idiot but a war hero who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country…it is sickening to think that there are people among us who take exception to honoring his memory by naming a park after him..
God bless our men and women who served. The safety of our children is not due to war death and violence http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wC0DnQBAtko#t=83
The safety the children live in is due to war death and violence.You show your aggression by denying it.
Can you read or are you on drugs? I was questioning his assertion that naming a park after a veteran brings violence to it.
@kabooky…It’s not war, death and violence that is being promoted but rather selflessness, bravery, courage and patriotism. Is there anything wrong with teaching children that?.Guess Crane didn’t have a problem when a Transvestite was the guest of honor at the “parade for all” circus on skillman ave!!
I don’t think Crane is an idiot, but what he said is kind if silly. I don’t think naming a playground after a veteran is bringing violence to the playground.
If anyone wants to pay their respects to Thomas Noonan at his grave, he is buried nearby in the old Calvary Cemetery (the one by the LIE).
Rest in peace
@Crane …for lack of a better word you are an idiot..
It’s good to memorialize these brave men. I just wish the country didn’t have to lose these good men in stupid wars.
I think it is wonderful for children to know that heros came from their community.
It’s nice that they are memorializing Sunnyside residents who served for this great country, but why choose a children’s playground for these things? Keep war, death and violence out of playgrounds.