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Queens Chronicle

Pat Dolan and the park she loved

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Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013 10:30 am

How ironic it is that this week the late civic activist Pat Dolan was honored twice by Queens’ officialdom, once directly and once indirectly, while in another instance much of what she fought for was laid aside in favor of smoke and mirrors.

Dolan, the founder and leader of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Conservancy, who was hit by a car a year and a half ago — on her way to a community meeting — epitomized the best of citizen activism. And on Sunday officials recognized her efforts to protect Queens’ crown jewel park by naming the path around Willow Lake the Pat Dolan Trail. How much the humble Dolan would appreciate such a thing is an open question, but her name deserves to be on the park.

The day before, many of the same people had broken ground on an expansion of the Kew Gardens Hills Library, and who did they repeatedly cite as a driving force behind the project? Pat Dolan, of course. She had long advocated for a bigger library.

But then came Monday, and with it a well-intentioned “visioning” meeting on the future of Flushing Meadows [See separate stories on all three events in some print editions or at qchron.com]. The room was packed, both with good people and good intentions. But there’s a problem.

The park has been targeted for major giveaways of land to two private, for-profit entities: the would-be redevelopers of Willets Point, who want to build a mall and more on what is now the Citi Field parking lot, technically parkland; and Major League Soccer, which wants to erect a stadium atop one of the few remaining vestiges of the old World’s Fairs. The soccer plan in particular must be stopped in order to preserve our public green space.

Participants in the visioning meeting know this. And yet the meeting was more about forming some kind of “park alliance” to advocate for and maintain Flushing Meadows. Sounds good off the cuff, but isn’t that what the Conservancy is for? Do we need yet another organization with nearly the same goals?

The alliance idea is being pressed by Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras. But if Ferreras really wants to protect the park, she should stand up in opposition to the soccer plan. As the area’s councilwoman, she could stop it at any time by doing so. That would serve the people of Queens well — and further honor the legacy of Pat Dolan.

Welcome to the discussion.