By Bob Harris
A year ago, Pat Dolan died after being hit by a car while crossing Hillside Avenue while heading to a transportation meeting at Community Board 8. The irony is the bus stop had been moved more than a block away from CB 8 because it had been in front of stores. A traffic light now stands where the bus now stops. I call it “Pat Dolan’s traffic light.”
Fast forward to Oct. 26, as a throng of legislators and civic leaders stood outside the Kew Gardens Hills library to dedicate the corner of Vleigh Place and 72nd Road as “Pat Dolan Way.” Such was the influence of Dolan that the ceremony was coordinated by local City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan).
Also attending were legislators and administrators such as Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), state Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck), Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing), Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and Assembly candidate Nily Rozic.
Dolan was a community leader and advocate known and respected by all. Her manner of direct speech and civic influence was such that officials usually gave her what she wanted. She was president of the Queens Civic Council, an umbrella organization of about 100 Queens civic associations, and had founded the Flushing Meadows Park Conservancy to improve and conserve the park which was her civics’ western boundary.
She had spent decades in civic work as president of her own civic, the Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association, and as recording secretary of the United Civic Council, a predecessor of the Queens Civic Congress. She had many contacts with civic leaders in the other boroughs and built coalitions.
Some civic leaders present at the dedication were Jim Gallagher, of the Fresh Meadows Homeowners civic; Harbachan Singh, vice president of the QCC; Florence Fisher, of the Hyde Park Owners co-op and executive director of the Queens Community Civic Corp.; Harold Baron, who was president of the Kew Garden Hills Civic Association before it took that name; your columnist, of the West Cunningham Park Civic Association; Richard Hellenbrecht, the current president of the QCC and a civic leader in southeast Queens; and Jennifer Martin, the co-president of the Kew Garden Hills civic.
Several of the officials told of Pat’s determination and dedication to the civic issues of concern to Queens residents. They told of her strong manner in which she pressed for zoning issues or the construction of things, like her library, or the preservation of Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Several of the officials recalled how they listened to her — it is interesting to evaluate why. Queens is famous for its many civic, tenant and co-op associations. These groups are vocal and active and invite legislators to their meetings, where the members are not afraid to make their complaints and praises known.
These civic groups have newsletters which reach hundreds of thousands of residents. Dolan, as president of the Queens Civic Congress, represented all these residents and the legislators and other officials knew that, so they listened to her and named a street after her.