There were laughs and tears Tuesday night as Queens paid tribute to civic activist Pat Dolan, killed two weeks ago while crossing the street.
Former and current borough presidents from Queens and Manhattan, along with religious, elected and civic leaders spoke about their dealings with the feisty Kew Gardens Hills resident, who wore many hats working for her community and the borough.
Dolan, 72, died on Nov. 15 on her way to a Community Board 8 Transportation Committee meeting in Hollis. The accident occurred on Hillside Avenue near 198th Street, when she was struck by a Nissan sedan and was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.
The activist lived in Kew Gardens Hills most of her life, in the home her parents purchased. She served as president of the Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association for 25 years, was a member of CB 8 for 20 years and founded the Flushing Meadows Corona Park Conservancy. She also served as president of the Queens Civic Congress.
The hour-long memorial, held at Schwartz Brothers Forest Park Chapel in Forest Hills, was led by Harold Baron, board chairman of the KGHCA, who said that Dolan “devoted all her time and her life to the community, where she lived, and the city for their betterment.”
Dolan was Irish, but Kew Gardens Hills now has a large population of Orthodox Jews, whom she worked with. Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, leader of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, called her “tough-nosed and hard, but underneath was a woman with soft qualities who wanted to do what was right.”
Richard Hellenbrecht, executive vice president of the Queens Civic Congress, said the evening’s turnout was uplifting. “Pat was a tireless, intrepid, tough taskmaster dedicated, bright and intelligent and a mentor,” Hellenbrecht said. “She always had advice and ideas.”
Aida Gonzales-Jarrin, chairwoman of the park conservancy group, said that Dolan loved Flushing Meadows and taught youngsters to care about the environment.
Dolan worked as director of Queens Connection, a transportation system for seniors run out of the Queens Community House. Irma Rodriguez, executive director, told about Dolan’s sense of humor, her knowledge and love of plants and the fact that she didn’t drive.
The most emotional outpouring was from Dolan’s lifelong friend, Norma Stegmaier, a neighbor, who related Dolan’s devotion to her large cat Timmy, who now has a new home. “Pat had a way of pulling people together and got me to be recording secretary of the KGHCA,” Stegmaier said. “She had a funny, warm side and liked going to museums.”
City Comptroller John Liu, who was a civic leader in Flushing before running for elective office, reflected on Dolan’s knowledge of zoning, traffic and other topics and her perseverance when she wanted something done. “She was such a special person. It’s hard to believe such an incredible force has been taken from us,” Liu said.
Borough President Helen Marshall discussed Dolan’s involvement in planning the expansion of the Kew Gardens Hills Library, which will begin in a few months. Marshall promised a special memorial to Dolan will be unveiled when the addition opens.
“If we had 50 Pats, we could take care of the world,” the borough president said.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said that Dolan always jokingly reminded him that the area he represents is just a suburb of Queens. “She gave so much of herself,” Stringer said. “We can’t replace her, and now it’s up to us to bring people together.”
Former Borough President Claire Shulman said she thought Dolan was immortal. “I had a healthy respect for Pat,” Shulman said. “She protected her neighborhood and wanted to maintain its quality of life. She was honest and fair.”
The former borough president indicated that Queens was really Dolan’s life and it’s hard to believe she’s gone. “I think she’s upstairs directing traffic,” Shulman said.
Aside from boroughwide civic leaders, the chapel pews were filled with other elected officials who did not speak. They included Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, state Sens. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) and Tony Avella (D-Bayside), Assemblymen Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), David Weprin (D-Little Neck) and Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing), and City Council members Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens).
Jackie Forrestal, corresponding secretary of the Hillcrest Estates Civic Association, said the memorial was a fitting tribute to Dolan. “It was lovely and the speakers were perfect,” she said.