Red, white, and blue local wants Old Glory at war memorial

One local has a vision to turn part of the concrete space in front of the Van Nest Memorial into a green street with a flagpole.
Photo by Edwin Soto

One Bronx patriot wants to see red, white and blue flying above the Van Nest Memorial — and that’s just for starters.

Richard Vitacco, president of the East Bronx History Forum, plans to push for a flagpole at the sight of the monument to honor war heroes who made the supreme sacrifice for their nation.

“It’s an 88-year-old memorial, and there’s no flagpole there to honor the deceased servicemen,” he said.

Vitacco lives in nearby Morris Park, but he feels strongly about the historical and cultural importance of the memorial just south of Van Nest Park, at the intersection of White Plains and Unionport roads, because his mother’s family is from Van Nest.

“It’s a gathering place for the community,” he said. “Especially on days like Veterans Day or Memorial Day.”

There was originally a flagpole inside the gated memorial, but there hasn’t been one at the site for at least 35 years, said Vitacco who also wants a greenstreet, an enclosed section of grasses and plants, in the cement triangle facing the memorial.

He pointed to the renovation of Van Nest Park just north of the monument, and said that the next step is to address the memorial’s concrete surroundings.

“The park’s being done over, why not beautify the slab south of the memorial?” he asked.

The plan, although still in the preliminary stages, is plausible, said Vitacco, the caveat being a matter of funding. But he points to other memorials and squares in the area that have a flagpole and a greenstreet, including Keane Square in Pelham Bay.

The city budget is set for this year, but Vitacco has high hopes the money for his project may be included in next summer’s allotment. But he knows bringing the idea to life will take time.

“Things don’t happen overnight,” he said.

Vitacco has received support from Community Board 11. He presented his plan to the board’s parks committee, which approved it and passed it to the full board, which voted unanimously in support of the proposal at its June meeting.

There should be a flagpole at the memorial, especially because of the ceremonies that are held there, said parks committee chair Joanne Rubino, who added that there are still many details for Vitacco to work out, but the committee liked his proposal.

“We’ll do whatever we can to support it, if it’s viable,” she said.

The idea of a greenstreet replacing some of the concrete is also a positive for Rubino.

“Anything that would beautify the area, we support,” she said.

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at (718) 742–3383. E-mail her at

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