Estelle Cooper, the former Flushing Meadows Park administrator who was facing criminal charges for allegedly stealing money meant to upgrade the park’s grounds and facilities, died this past weekend.
She was 82.
The website for NYC Park Advocates said services were held on Monday at Sinai Chapels in Fresh Meadows, and that she was to be buried in Mount Carmel Cemetery in Glendale.
Cooper had a high profile in the Queens Republican Party for more than three decades.
She was the party’s former secretary, and sought elected office twice, running unsuccessfully for the state Senate in 1978 and borough president in 1986, losing to Democrat Claire Shulman.
Cooper was appointed administrator of the park by Mayor Giuliani and retained the post for 17 years. She resigned in January 2012, one month after she resigned as director of Unisphere Inc., the nonprofit she helped found to raise money to support Flushing Meadows Park projects.
Cooper was arraigned in July for allegedly stealing more than $50,000 from Unisphere between November 2007 and December 2011.
The alleged theft was uncovered in an internal audit of Unisphere’s books in November 2011, and was referred to the office of Queens District Attorney Richard Brown in February of last year.
Sources told the Queens Chronicle in July that Cooper had access to a Unisphere credit card, and that withdrawals were made multiple times and on the same day in places like Atlantic City and the Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway.
She had been charged with second- and third-degree grand larceny in connection with the missing funds, and was facing up to 15 years in prison.
Cooper had been in failing health and was believed to have suffered two strokes in recent years.
Cooper, at the time of her resignation, also was under fire for a day camp run at the park by her daughter, Ilene Balsamo.
“The Parks Department was saddened to hear of Estelle Cooper’s passing,” said Parks Department officials in a statement issued Monday afternoon. “We extend out deepest sympathies to her family during this difficult time.”
Queens Borough president Helen Marshall said she was very saddened to learn of cooper’s death. She extended her sympathies to Cooper’s family, recalling her extensive service with the park.