The Village of East Hills will honor its past and celebrate its future come Labor Day this summer.
“That’s the slogan we’re going with,” said Natalie Mansbach, who heads the planning committee of the village’s 85th anniversary.
When Mansbach moved to East Hills from Huntington in 1975, she said there was no sense of community in the village.
At the time, an U.S. Air Force barracks occupied the current location of the park at East Hills, she said.
“I remember driving down Harbor Hill Road and seeing the barracks and it really brought back memories of the times past,” Mansbach said.
Mansbach, who was born after World War II, said it brought back memories of the war, ruins and dilapidated buildings.
East Hills Mayor Michael Koblenz, who has lived in the village for more than 30 years, said he remembers the barbed wires surrounding the Air National Guard base that is now the Park at East Hills.
“They had troops inside doing exercises and trucks driving into the village over the weekend,” Koblenz said.
Koblenz said at the time the village didn’t have focal point where everyone could gather together.
“The village was really small at the time, we didn’t have our own security and the civic association did all the village celebrations inhouse individually,” Koblenz said.
Village attorney, Bill Burton, a 33-year resident who moved from Great Neck, said the village didn’t hold any athletic competitions, fireworks during Labor Day or have any meaningful agenda at the time
“It was just a small impersonal village with a bedroom community where people got up in the morning and went to work and went back to bed at night,” Burton said.
He said there was no center to the community and the only real function was the monthly board meetings.
“It was a lot like today,” said Irving Chernofsky who moved to East Hills in 1980. “You never saw anybody. All you saw was cars and driveway and wondered where everybody was.”
“And all of a sudden, you saw the advertisement for this park that they want to build in the village,” Mansbach said.
Chernofsky said the park spurred commercial developments around the village like the construction of the Wheatley Plaza in Greenvale.
“I have to say, the park brought about the biggest change in the village,” Mansbach said.
She said when the park opened in 2006, she said it built a community where residents gather together to celebrate, relax and have fun.
Mansbach, a retired teacher from Queens, said she initially moved to the village because of the school system but she has stayed over the years because of the park.
“My grand kids went to the Roslyn School system and son has moved back to the village and he loves it,” Mansbach said. “I’ve seen a lot and experienced a lot and I’ve seen the growth in the community.”
Mansbach said although she hasn’t met with the committee members yet, she has some ideas of her own — some of which she has discussed with Koblenz.
“We haven’t made up our minds yet on any of the ideas we have,” Mansbach said. “We will meet and table all the ideas which will then be presented to the mayor and the board of trustees.”
“I’m thinking about have a contest like a dance contest, a jingle committee and somehow include the kids in the park segment,” Mansbach said.
She said she would also like T-shirts with logos of the village printed on it, a carnival, picnic with memorabilia from the village’s past distributed to residents.
She said Koblenz has suggested an art contest and have judges from the Nassau County Museum of Art as judges.
“This hasn’t been voted on by the committee,” Mansbach said. “We haven’t even met yet. These are just my own ideas.”
“Of course, there will be a fire works show at the end of the weekend,” Mansbach said.
Mansbach and the planning committee will meet on May 10 at village hall to discuss ideas for the weekend ceremony.