Just over was three years ago, Gotham lost one of its good guys – Jack Friedman who had passed away earlier today just days short of his 56th birthday. Fittingly because Jack enjoyed live music – we attended several shows together, I drafted a post to Fredslist and the Gotham website wall about his passing and the funeral and Shiva arrangements while attending a jam in Hicksville where I had arranged for my brother Rob in from Portland to play. His funeral like this blog took place on a Sunday. More importantly, today at 11:00 a.m. a street named in his honor and memory gets unveiled on 254th Street in Floral Park.
At his passing Jack served as executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.
Jack and I knew each other for some three decades. His most distinguishing feature – and I am sure more than a few others will attest to this – putting family, friends, colleagues and the public before himself.
Before he joined the chamber he was the top aide for a few years to our local member of the City Council. After he took the chamber gig, I personally recruited Jack to serve as a trustee of my (Northeast Queens) Jewish Community Council knowing he could be the president who could succeed our common friend Jeff Gurdus (also of blessed memory); Jack performed admirably.
Jack was the field general of my lone race for public office (that I try not to recall); its lack of success was not on him.
We both rebounded the following year each gaining election to NYC's premier Community School Board serving District 26 in 1989. I called it doing time; it was several night meetings a week. For some reason Jack chose to endure it until legislature abolished the boards and impose mayoral control.
I thought I took the smarter route serving one term. Jack stayed on and colleagues made him President and he got locked up in that no-pay all give position for five years until until they shut down the school boards. Of course no respite for this guy, he helped the BBYO that our daughters were active in and Bellerose Jewish Center which exists today because of his smarts and ability to make sound deals.
At his passing we served together on the board of a senior agency, Services Now for Adult Persons (SNAP), where just before his passing we recruited two Gotham members to join us on the board. It was part of a master plan Jack and I cooked up to improve the quality of SNAP’s board. With great help from one of those Gotham members (Mindy Stern) SNAP’s board (I chaired its board since last summer) recruited several talented new members (most recently our own Renee Richter).
Jack introduced me to Tom Grech who later joined GOtham GREEN at Jack’s recommendation. A few years back I had brought Jack to Gotham Towers. He joined our tribe and had been an invaluable connector for so many of us. Gotham still enjoys a nice partnership with the chamber, now led by Tom (now a member of GQ aka Gotham Queens).
When I attended a chamber committee meeting or other function it was rare that we did not meet after in his office to chat on not just chamber matters but politics – Jack was perhaps the penultimate political junkie, family and music – his was into Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny the way I love Poco and John Fogerty; we attended a Bruce show at the Meadowlands of course, and a few summer back The Good Rats. We never coined a name like the Travelin' Wilburys for our drives long or short but I know I'll miss the chats.
And through all that he was a good dad and husband.
Fittingly, the street named for Jack lies not just off the entrance to Bellerose JC but its former sanctuary building will serve as the new home for SNAP once its lengthy renovation get done.
Jack, we miss you friend. But it will be certainly nice to park on “your” street, drive through or just pass it by, knowing many more will perhaps know of the difference you made for your family, your friends, the others you touched and this world.