Garden in Juniper Valley Park dedicated to
late, longtime legislator Thomas Ognibene
BY DEAN MOSES
A small crowd gathered around a secluded patch of grassland in Juniper Valley Park
located on 80th Street and Juniper Boulevard North to celebrate the life of community
leader Thomas V. Ognibene on Sunday, Oct. 11.
Adjacent from an erected podium stood an easel displaying a photograph of Ognibene,
a former councilman in the 30th District. Over the course of his tenure, the late
elected official became a beloved figure throughout his constituency and was mourned
by many more after his death in 2015.
In order to celebrate a life well lived, Councilman Robert Holden, Councilman Eric
Ulrich, former Senator Serphin R. Maltese, Vietnam Veterans of America Queens Chapter
32, along with many others arrived to pay their respects.
“It has been five years since we lost Tom Ognibene. I remember the emptiness I felt.
We lost a mentor. We lost such a great man,” said Holden.
He continued by speaking of his friend’s dedication to cleaning up Juniper Valley
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“This was all covered with weeds, trash everywhere. I took photos and sent it to
Tom. When he got elected, he said, ‘Let’s rebuild the park.’ We did that. Thanks to Tom
Ognibene’s funding, every part of the park was refurbished.”
Photo by Dean Moses
Both Councilmen Holden and Ulrich felt a deep kinship to Ognibene through his
mentorship, friendship and father-like love. It was stated that Ognibene took in aspiring
political leaders and mentored them, and in doing so set a high standard of leadership.
“He set the bar so high for public service that people in this community have the
right to expect all of their elected officials to work just as hard for them; to be just as
honest, straightforward and gets results for them. That was what Tom was about: A man
of honesty. A man of results. A man of conviction of principals, conservative conscious,
trying to lead the city and community in a better direction. That is what today we are
celebrating a life of service and dedication,” Ulrich said.
In addition to speeches by elected officials, people who knew Ognibene best, such
as his widow Margaret, shared memories and amusing anecdotes from both his time
in office and personal life, proving there is still more to learn, even after a person’s
death. Many learned that Ognibene served in the military for the first time while others
chuckled at stories of his impressive appetite.
The event concluded with applause as the councilmen, veterans and Ognibene’s family
and friends unveiled a plaque naming his favorite area of Juniper Valley Park the
“Thomas V. Ognibene Garden.”